Rules of the Road

March 4, 2011

Having grown up in the family locksmith business, I can remember a time when the only business restriction we had was from the local police department. Our locksmith business location had no parking area, so customers and employees often double-parked. The police showed up every holiday season for a 'donation' to some benevolent association. My father always believed that it had more to do with illegal parking than benevolence. When he moved his business a small distance away to a building with a large parking area, the police stopped making their seasonal benevolence calls.

Today life as a locksmith is a lot more complicated. A notice concerning fire door inspectors just crossed my desk. A company is administering a class which can make each of us official fire door inspectors. According to the letter of introduction, my state has just passed the International Building and Fire codes (IBC) 2009 edition which requires building owners to have annual inspections of fire doors. Included with the introduction was a 53 page list of cities and every city listed an earlier IBC edition for building code rules used in their municipalities. After we spend several hundred dollars to take the exam, who will be requesting our services?

A couple years ago I took a class for drilling raceways in fire doors. Cost of the class was several hundred dollars. In addition to the class, expensive tools and stickers must be purchased. The stickers are used to regrade the door after a raceway is drilled. I have drilled horizontal holes in countless doors over the years to run wiring from the hinge side to the lock side of a door, but now there is a law governing the procedure.  

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) laws were signed into law in July, 1990. Locksmiths still call wondering about what hardware to install and what type of commercial buildings are affected by ADA laws. Most locksmiths are concerned that if they install the wrong hardware, the government will call and make the locksmith remove the hardware they just installed. Building owners are not inclined to spend extra money on hardware until they are forced to, so retrofit hardware changes to meet ADA laws often move at a slow pace or not at all.

HIPAA and JCAHO are the new government buzz words aimed at health facilities. Locksmith Ledger published an informative article on these two subjects in the May, 2007 issue, page 10. HIPAA requires patient information to be held under lock and key to protect care data. JCAHO requires health care facilities to have controlled access to sensitive areas such as drug supply rooms. JCAHO requirements also are that locks should be self-latching so they are not left unlocked.

When talking about laws affecting locksmiths, we cannot forget locksmith licensing. There is no consensus as to whether locksmith licensing is good or bad. Everyone has an opinion. The only fact that we can agree on is that at one time there was no laws, and now there are. It is just one more concern for locksmiths trying to make a living.

An old saying asks whether the glass is half full or half empty. I tend to think of our locksmith industry glass as half full. ADA, fire doors and HIPAA are all available as possible avenues for added sales, installations and repairs. At the same time, until demand catches up with these new laws, the reality is that it will be a gradual process.