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Five Holiday and Winter Safety Tips for Hospitals

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, December 10, 2009

With season's greetings and wintry weather on many minds, let's look at a series of related precautions that can keep your patients, staff members, and buildings safer.

1. Holiday decorations: As reported previously on HealthLeaders Media, holiday decoration policies must emphasize the need to keep lights and ornaments free of fire safety risks. Decorations should not obstruct egress routes or hang from sprinkler heads, and electrical components in decorations and light strings must have an appropriate tag from a testing laboratory (e.g., Underwriters Laboratories). Steven MacArthur, safety consultant for The Greeley Company, likes the idea of creating a list of acceptable decorations that can be referred to year after year. Encourage safety and ask employees to note ideas and products that meet fire safety requirements, and then create a catalog of those items, MacArthur said. Staff members can download a free holiday decorations monitoring checklist from HCPro's Hospital Safety Center.

2. Portable space heaters: It's common for space heaters to start showing up in parts of the building that are subject to drafts, but these items are a significant fire risk if used improperly. The Life Safety Code generally prohibits space heaters hospitals unless:

  • They are used in non-sleeping staff and employees areas

  • The heating elements of the appliances don't exceed 212° F

The Joint Commission takes it a step further by prohibiting space heaters in nurses' stations, a point brought up by George Mills, FASHE, CHFM, CEM, senior engineer at The Joint Commission, during this summer's American Society for Healthcare Engineering's annual conference. If you're accredited by The Joint Commission, make sure your space heater policies reflect the commission's thinking and that staff members have received education about how and where to use these appliances.

3. Sprinkler pipes: A burst sprinkler pipe can make for a messy and potentially costly cleanup. Take steps now to avoid frozen sprinkler pipes if your hospital is in a cold climate. Have your maintenance crews check the following locations, which may experience chilly air or have poor insulation:

  • Loading docks

  • Parking garages

  • Ambulance bays

  • Main entrance lobbies

  • Linen chutes

  • Elevator machine rooms

  • Unheated stairwells

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1 comments on "Five Holiday and Winter Safety Tips for Hospitals"


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