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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 3, March 2010, Posted On: 2/8/2010

Tri-State AMC Explains 48" Rule In PA Building Code Enforcement

Tim Sanford
Tri-State Automatic Merchandising Council, Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, 48" Rule In Pennsylvania Building Code Enforcement, Americans with Disabilities Act, American National Standards Institute, Lou Pace, Quality Brokerage, National Automatic Merchandising Association, NAMA, vending machine, vending, vending business, Dixie-Narco, Crane Co.

HARRISBURG, PA -- Some operators in Pennsylvania have reported that local building inspectors are demanding that vending machines installed in a new building incorporate selector assemblies that are not more than 48" above the floor. Lou Pace, Quality Brokerage (Turnersville, NJ), president of the Tri-State Automatic Merchandising Council, has put the problem in context, and outlined steps by which it may be solved.

Pace explained that the 48" requirement is not related to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It is found in the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, drafted and implemented a decade ago. This code incorporates another, the International Building Code, which in turn draws on a code written by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI, and the originators of the IBC, are private organizations, not government bodies.

The Tri-State president explained, too, that the inspections during which machines have been cited are, in almost all cases, conducted by local building code enforcement offices, not by the state. And, he said, the National Automatic Merchandising Association knows of only one machine that conforms to the 48" requirement (a Dixie-Narco glassfront cold drink vender).

A building code violation typically is issued when a new building is ready to open, and the local inspector finds one or several vending machines that are out of compliance, as nearly all vending machines will be. The inspector then orders the noncompliant equipment to be removed before the building is approved for occupancy.

Thus, Pace noted, "The first thing to do is remove the machines and allow your customer to open."

After that, one should apply for a variance from the state Department of Labor & Industry. Pace explained how this is done, and noted some of the pitfalls in the process, along with suggestions on overcoming them. These requests for variance are reviewed every month by the Accessibility Board of the L&I Department, so approval usually is fairly rapid if all the paperwork has been submitted in due form.

The Tri-State Automatic Merchandising Council and NAMA are seeking a long-term resolution of the problem. One promising approach seems to be to get vending machines removed from the jurisdiction of local building code compliance authorities. "It is our basic position that a vending machine should not be part of the building code in the first place, since it is not a permanent part of the building," Pace emphasized.

Operators encountering difficulties can request information from NAMA's eastern regional office.

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