Q: What are your thoughts on the flammability of disinfectant hand wipes? One of our VPs raised the question, noting that the wipes burn pretty well. Are these wipes a fire concern for hospitals?
A: There is no specific code or standard that directly addresses alcohol-based disinfectant wipes (ABDW), other than NFPA 30 for total accumulative gallons of flammable liquids, which really doesn’t apply in this case. So, the enforcement of ABDW is left up to the respective authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to interpret. In unofficial conversations with The Joint Commission Standards Interpretation Group, they have said they would add the accumulative total of ABDW to the accumulative total to the alcohol based hand rubs (ABHR) totals and limit the overall total of ABHR and ABDW to 10 gallons in dispensers per smoke compartment, and 5 gallons in storage (outside of a fire rated cabinet) per smoke compartment. This is consistent with the NFPA Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) 787 dated April 15, 2004 that permits ABHR dispensers in hospital corridors and is retroactive to the 2003 and 2000 editions of the Life Safety Code. This TIA places limits on total quantities of ABHR products in dispensers per smoke compartment, which is 10 accumulative gallons total, for ABHR product in dispensers, and 5 gallons total in storage (outside of a fire rated cabinet) per smoke compartment. There are other AHJs who enforce the Life Safety Code in hospitals (CMS, State DPH, Local Fire Marshal, State Fire Marshal, Insurance Companies) and there is no guarantee they would take the same position as Joint Commission. It is advised that you check with your respective AHJs to determine compliance.