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Electric Fan Safety Considerations

By August 20, 2019On the Radar

During rounds you may notice several electric fans in use, especially during the heat of summer.  Even though they may be an effective means to stay cool, their use brings in several areas of consideration to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

First is the electrical safety component.  Fire, Electric and Life Safety Codes all indicate that electrical safety is important and must be validated by equipment inspections and maintenance.  The UL requirement is for power strips (aka Relocatable Power Taps) only, not all electrical equipment.  However, all electrical equipment must be ‘approved’ by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) over the facility (i.e. local fire department).  The electrical equipment MUST be safe, inspected and ensure that it has been approved by a nationally recognized authority (this is where UL comes in for the United States – they are the most recognized authority).  Thus, from an electrical standpoint – electric fans would be acceptable if the Bio-Medical Department DOES NOT have a policy requiring UL approved pieces of equipment only, and if they have inspected these items upon entry into the organization.

The second component, and most important component for fans, is in the Ventilation Systems criteria (infection control) of the Facility. Fans create air currents, which in turn creates disturbance in the pressure relationships within the environment of care.  If the building’s ventilation system cannot provide adequate cooling/heating for the patients/staff, then the question and concern goes to why the ventilation system cannot do its proper job.  If air currents are created, this may also increase the infection control risk for patients as the air is now being forced from staff work areas, public areas, and patient care areas into adjacent spaces where there may be increased vulnerability due to airborne contaminants.

Recommendation:  If your organization is going to utilize fans in patient and non-patient care areas you will need to 1) ensure the Bio-Medical staff have inspected and can validate the ‘safety’ of the electrical equipment in relation to your local Authority Having Jurisdiction and 2) ensure that Infection Prevention staff have authorized the use of fans in the areas they are used in, and 3) if unsure, perform a risk assessment to weigh and eliminate the risk of spreading contaminants through the ventilation process.

Related Codes and Standards:

  • NFPA 99: 10.2.2 Cord and Plug-Connected — Portable Equipment
  • NFPA 99: Grounding of Appliances
  • NFPA 99: All cord-connected electrically powered appliances that are not double insulated and are used in the patient care vicinity shall be provided with a three-wire power cord and a three-pin grounding-type plug.
  • NFPA 99: 10.4.2 Cord and Plug-Connected — Portable Equipment in Patient Care Room
  • NFPA 99: Nonpatient care related electrical equipment, including facility or patient-owned appliances that are used in the patient care vicinity and will, in normal use, contact patients, shall be visually inspected by the patient’s care staff or other personnel.
  • NFPA 99: Any equipment that appears not to be in proper working order or in a worn condition shall be removed from service or reported to the appropriate maintenance staff.
  • NFPA 99: Household or office appliances not commonly equipped with grounding conductors in their power cords shall be permitted, if they are not located within the patient care vicinity. Double-insulated appliances shall be permitted in the patient care vicinity.
  • Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities; Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC)
  • The Joint Commission Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals, 2019
    • 02.05.01 Does the organization manage risks associated with its utility systems?
    • 02.01.01 Does the organization manage safety and security risks?


James Ballard

Author James Ballard

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