Q: Are electric blankets permitted to be used by patients in long term care facilities? I cannot find any references to electric blankets in any NFPA codes or standard.
A: Technically, you are correct: There is no specific NFPA code or standard that prohibits the use of electric blankets in healthcare. However, there are significant risks to the patient and staff if you do use them, and before you allow the use of electric blankets, you need to conduct a risk assessment. At a minimum, the risk assessment needs to address to following issues:
- Could the heat generated from the blanket cause epidermal damage to the patient?
- Could the electrical portion of the blanket become damaged due to abuse or spillage, and cause harm to the patient?
- Could the electrical cord become damaged (frayed) by other wheeled equipment rolling on top of the cord?
- Could the electrical cord become a tripping hazard to the patient or staff?
- Could the patient accidentally set the temperature control too high and cause damage to their body?
- How will the electric blankets be maintained and inspected, and who will perform this task?
Another issue that you need to address… Why do you want to use electric blankets? Is the patient room too cool for the patient’s comfort level? There are minimum temperature levels that the organization must meet. If a surveyor observes the use of electric blankets, they have the right to investigate to determine if you did a risk assessment that addresses all of the above issues, and more. They have the right to review your risk assessment and they have the right to disagree with the conclusions in the risk assessment. In other words, no matter how you justify their use, a surveyor can still cite you for an unsafe environment for using electric blankets if they want. My advice: Stay away from electric blankets, and do not allow them. They become more problems than they are worth. Check with your state and local authorities to determine if they have regulations that would prohibit their use.