Hand Washing Sinks

Q: We have a relatively new Infection Control team.  They are performing rounds and having mock surveys with a nurse-consultant that cites issues from the 2014 FGI in areas that are much older.  The issue comes in when we are required to install new sinks (dirty, clean and a hand washing) in existing spaces.  We are a mixed hospital, some new that has to meet 2014 FGI due to new renovations.  What are your thoughts on the older areas that have not been renovated?  I am working with a design professional to see how he would design a space for the number of sinks and what reference he should use.  If it is simple and best practice to install them, I am all for it but some of the renovations come with a significant space or capital impact.  I am not sure if this is something you can help guide with or not.

A: According to Joint Commission’s standard EC.02.06.05, EP 1, the FGI Guidelines (2014 edition) is only used when planning for new, altered, or renovated spaces. Tell the nurse-consultant surveyor she is mistaken. She cannot apply a new guideline to an existing condition.

Now… if there was a requirement to have hand-washing sinks in the room at the time the room was designed or renovated, then she is correct and the sinks need to be installed. But if she plays that card, then she needs to provide evidence that there was a regulation (state, local, or otherwise) that required the sink at the time the room was designed and constructed.

Risk Assessments

Q: In regards to risk assessments, would you base a risk level to include having any additional controls in place for each item assessed, or do you place the risk level on the impact to patients/staff assuming the item being assessed would not be available or functional? We are performing a risk assessment on facility systems and medical equipment and are wondering what the standard is in the approach.

A: It sounds like you’re referring to the NFPA 99-2012 risk assessment for building system categories. If so, then the assessment is conducted with the assumption of the worst-case scenario, whereby the systems being evaluated fail and back-up systems (i.e. emergency power generators) fail as well. According to section A.4.1 of NFPA 99-2012, the category definitions apply to equipment operations and are not intended to consider intervention by caregivers or others. Also, the Introduction to Chapter 4 in the NFPA 99-2012 Handbook, the authors say:

“Each system must be evaluated for its impact on both the patients and the caregivers if the system should fail. Based on the worst-outcome scenario of a failure’s impact, the system is assigned a category. The chapter on that system the describes the requirements for the selected category.”

Be aware that the chairman of the Technical Committee who wrote this new chapter 4 for NFPA 99-2012 told me the intent was for the risk assessment to be on new equipment only, and existing equipment was exempted. However, chapter 4 of NFPA 99-2012 does not say that, and CMS is requiring all certified hospitals to have this risk assessment conducted on existing equipment as well as new. So, I recommend to my clients to do the assessment (it only takes a few minutes) on all existing and new equipment until such time CMS changes their minds.

Blanket Warmers

Q: Is there a code for blanket warmers, towel warmers and such equipment that is used in a medical setting? Since they have a heating element would it be the same as having a space heater?

A: No… Portable space heaters are regulated by section 19.7.8 of the 2012 LSC. Blanket warmers are not regulated by the LSC.

However, blanket warmers are unofficially regulated by the accreditation organization and by CMS. While there are not specific standards that address blanket warmers, surveyors will expect the hospital to regulate their blanket warmers via their own policies. The hospital is expected to have a policy that sets the maximum temperature that the blankets may be. Usually, the maximum temp is set at 130 degrees F. Anything over that will likely be scrutinized by a surveyor.

Blanket warmers are considered medical equipment and must be included in the medical equipment inventory, and they must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Clinical Needs Locks

Q: For clinical needs locks, can occupants pass through four locked doors (patient room door, a cross-corridor door, another cross-corridor door, and a door at exit discharge) in a required single path of egress? (All options have 4 locked doors in the path.)

A: The 2012 Life Safety Code does not address any restrictions on how many doors in the path of egress may be equipped with Clinical Needs locks. Therefore, if the LSC does not prohibit it, then it is permitted.

However, not all AHJs permit it. For example; I am told that the IBC prohibits more than one Clinical Need lock in the path of egress (or, at least they used to). When I worked at the hospital, I tried to get the state to allow two locked doors in the path of egress from the Psychiatric unit but they would not allow it.

But in my travels, I have seen multiple doors in the path of egress equipped with Clinical Needs locks where permitted in various states around the country. The most common use of multiple Clinical Needs locks create a ‘Sally Port’ or ‘airlock’ that allows one locked door to open but the other locked door must be closed. This is an added security to prevent anyone from eloping.

So, the LSC does not prohibit it, but the IBC and some AHJs do.

Emergency Management

Q: Regarding the new CMS rule on emergency preparedness, are they telling us that we must have full heating and cooling support for the entire hospital during a power outage up to and including adding more generators?

A: No… I don’t believe it is. Section 482.15 (b)(1)(ii)(A) says, “The hospital must develop and implement emergency preparedness policies and procedures … that must address temperatures to protect patient health and safety”. This does not say or mean that you need to add equipment to maintain temperatures (other than what the Life Safety code and NFPA 99 requires). It’s saying you must have a policy and a procedure that must address temperatures to protect the health and safety of patients.

So, your policies must reflect a plan on how you are going to accomplish this. If you lose fuel for the heating appliances, then what is your back-up plan? If you lose normal power and then emergency power, what is your back-up plan? Ultimately, your plan should recognize that you must evacuate the building if you can no longer maintain safe temperatures for your patients and staff.

Magnetic Locks

Q: Is there a code requirement for testing magnetic-locking devices, for a facility maintenance director?

A: There is a requirement in NFPA 72-2010, section 14.4.5 that all interface devices (i.e. relays, control modules) be tested once per year. Since the magnetic locks in access-control and delayed egress locks are connected to the fire alarm system via an interface relay, then the magnetic lock needs to be tested once per year to ensure it disconnects during a fire alarm signal. This test is required to be conducted by someone who is certified in accordance with NFPA 72.

If you are CMS certified or accredited by any of the major accreditation organizations then you would be expected to comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations on preventive maintenance. Most manufacturers of magnetic locks requires periodic maintenance to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Portable Space Heaters

Q: Could you please clear up a concern related to section 19.7.8 of the 2012 Life Safety Code, that addresses Portable Space-Heating Devices? Section 19.7.8 (1) states such devices are used only in non-sleeping staff and employee areas. Does this mean that the approved space heaters are allowed at nurse stations or offices that are located in the same smoke compartment as patient care rooms?

A: It really depends on the AHJ’s interpretation of the term “non-sleeping staff and employee areas”. I know Joint Commission interprets this to mean approved space heaters cannot be used in any smoke compartment that contains patient sleeping or treatment activities. Other AHJ’s may not be as definitive, and leave it up to the surveyor to decide.

Personally, I suggest you go with Joint Commission interpretation (see LS.02.01.70, EP 8) as that seems to me to be the more restrictive. You should be safe with most other AHJs if you follow that interpretation.

GFCI Receptacles on Ice Machines

Q: We had our Joint Commission inspection today and they cited us for water coolers and ice machines not being plugged into GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) receptacles. One of our buildings was built in 1972 and the other was 2008. They cited NFPA 99-2012 Chapters 6 and 9, under EC 02.05.05 EP 8. Do you believe that was a correct finding? Thanks

A: Yes… that is a legitimate finding.

NFPA 99-2012, section 6.3.2.1 says the electrical installation must be in accordance with NFPA 70 National Electrical Code. Article 210.8(B) of NFPA 70-2011 says ground-fault circuit-interruption for personnel protection shall be provided as required in 210.8(A) through (C). The ground-fault circuit-interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

Sub-section (B) “Other Than Dwelling Units” says all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(B)(1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel:

(1) Bathrooms

(2) Kitchens

(3) Rooftops

(4) Outdoors

(5) Sinks — where receptacles are installed within 6 ft of the outside edge of the sink.

(6) Indoor wet locations

(7) Locker rooms with associated showering facilities

(8) Garages, service bays, and similar areas where electrical diagnostic equipment, electrical hand tools, or portable lighting equipment are to be used

So, item #6 ‘wet locations’ is the kicker on this issue. The AHJs are now interpreting anything that holds water to be a wet location, and therefore must have a GFCI receptacle. Another issue that you need to be aware of, is all GFCI receptacles need to be tested monthly. Ouch. More labor and documentation.

I don’t see where NFPA 99-2012 Chapter 9 (HVAC) applies in this issue, but it is a legitimate finding through chapter 6.

Non-Compliant Construction Type Above a Healthcare Occupancy

Q: I have an interesting one for you. We have an architect propose a construction type of Type V (111) for a 3-story building with the first-floor being Healthcare occupancy (a nursing home) and the upper 2 floors being Residential Board and Care occupancy (assisted living). There is a 2-hour floor ceiling assembly separating the nursing home and assisted living.

It is interesting to me because I am not aware that the LSC has ever allowed this in the past, but it appears to be allowed by the 2012 LSC in accordance with 18.1.3.5. The 2012 LSC Handbook also gives a good description. What I am worried about is CMS and accreditation surveys. This is against everything that has been engrained in our brains and it could be a major issue. Have you seen this or heard of this before?

A: Yes… this is a very interesting case. I cannot recall that I’ve seen this before, mainly because the 2000 LSC did not allow this arrangement. It was not until the 2009 edition of the LSC that this was clearly permitted. And I agree, the Handbook for the 2012 LSC explains this very well. I recall a conversation that I had with a representative from NFPA years ago on this very subject and he assured me it was not permitted (we were under the 2000 LSC at the time). So, I agree with you… It goes against what we’ve been taught. But times change, don’t they!

Unless you have other regulations preventing this arrangement, I would say that the NFPA codes and standards would permit it, but please check with your state and local authorities to see if they have any problems with it. I would not be too concerned about a nursing home being cited by a CMS surveyor or an accreditation surveyor since they follow NFPA rather rigidly (or are supposed to), and since the 2012 LSC does permit it, the nursing home may make the case that it is permitted if the surveyor is considering citing them.

Personally, I think it is poor insight by the healthcare organization to do this, as they will never be able to expand their healthcare occupancy beyond the 1st floor, and maintaining that 2-hour fire-rated barrier is a special challenge for anyone, let alone a typical maintenance staff of a nursing home that is often under-manned, and not trained well on technical issues. I suspect over a period of time the 2-hour fire-rated horizontal barrier will be compromised and not maintained properly due to a lack of understanding.

 

Which Edition of FGI?

Q: My understanding is we should be following the 2010 FGI Guidelines because that’s what is recognized by the 2012 LSC that was adopted by CMS. But I have read where CMS and Joint Commission would allow hospitals to comply with the most recent edition of the FGI Guidelines, which is the 2014 edition. To confuse the issue further, our state has adopted the 2010 FGI Guidelines. What this boils down to is Table 7-1 on ventilation and if we should follow the 2010 edition or a newer one. Is my understanding correct or are we to follow the latest FGI guideline?

A: For most hospitals, compliance with the FGI Guidelines is more of a suggestion, than a requirement. The FGI Guidelines are not standards, but are guidelines on how to design your facility. According to the Interpretive Guidelines for CMS Condition of Participation §482.41(c)(4), it is clear that the design of the hospital must be made in accordance with a select standard or guideline. CMS allows you to choose which standard or guideline you follow, and provides suggestions for temperature and ventilation as directed by AORN, FGI, CDC and the like. It is also expected that you would follow state or local regulations as well, even if they are more restrictive than the national regulations.

Once designed and constructed, the temperature and ventilation requirements do not change in your facility when a newer edition of a standard or guideline is adopted. If you designed your ORs to the 2010 edition of the FGI Guidelines, then you only have to comply with the requirements of the 2010 edition for the life of the building, or until you conduct major renovation. Your facility does not have to retroactively comply with newer editions of the FGI Guidelines.

If your state has adopted the 2010 edition of the FGI Guidelines, and they require compliance with that edition, then that is the edition you comply with, even though CMS would allow compliance with the 2014 edition. The state’s requirements are more restrictive than CMS’.

As far as I can see, the 2012 Life Safety Code does NOT reference any edition of the FGI Guidelines, but NFPA 99-2012 does reference the 2008 ASRAE 170 publication on ventilation, which is the basis for Table 7-1 in the FGI Guidelines.