Medical Air Used to Dry Equipment

Q: Is it allowable to use clean compressed medical air to blow off equipment in central sterile? Currently, we use compressed air from our medical air distribution system to dry equipment in our central sterile area, and we have concerns if this practice is permitted.

A: No, it is not permitted. The LSC requires that you be in compliance with NFPA 99 (1999 edition). Joint Commission and CMS both have adopted the 2005 edition of NFPA 99 only for non-flammable compressed gas cylinder storage, but for all other aspects of NFPA 99, the 1999 edition is the one to follow. The annex section on 4-3.1.1.9(a) discusses the intent of the medical air piping distribution system should only be used for respiratory assistance needs involving breathable air. The medical air system is not intended to be used for general hospital support use. If the medical air system was used for purposes other than breathable air then there is a chance of cross-contamination, and it might increase service interruptions and reduce the service life of the equipment. While the annex section of NFPA 99 is not part of the enforceable standard, it does provide guidelines to follow for the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) on how to apply the standard. Therefore, it can be (and is) enforced by The Joint Commission, CMS and other AHJs. My advice is to discontinue using compressed medical air for drying equipment, and reserve the medical air only for breathing purposes.