The convenience of power strips is undeniable, but the hazards they present in hospitals and other health care facilities are less well-known. Because misused power strips can endanger patients and staff, strict regulations govern how and where they are used. Failure to follow regulations can lead to code violations, citations, fines and accreditation issues. Even more important, violating regulations can also increase the risk of inflicting injury upon patients, staff and visitors. By understanding the basics of health care power strip technology and the various codes and standards that govern power strips in health care environments, you can benefit from their cost-effective convenience while encouraging optimal safety and regulatory compliance.
Following the five-step S-T-R-I-P method will put you on the right path to better promote safety and compliance for your health care facility. Your policy-making Strategy will be informed by understanding the Technology available, understanding the Regulations that apply to power strips and your facility, understanding the proper Installation of power strips, and understanding the correct Purpose (i.e. application) for each type of strip.
Combine your knowledge and resources to develop a policy that makes sense for your facility and the regulators involved (such as The Joint Commission, OSHA, CMS, and federal, state and local authorities having jurisdiction). It is up to you to conduct a risk assessment and develop an appropriate policy. Get to know the surveyors who make regular appearances at your facility. Ultimately, the interpretation of code is up to them. Understanding their interpretations will help you tremendously when developing your policy.
There is a big difference between the technology used in a generic power strip from the local big box store and specialized power strips with fault protection that are designed for health care applications. Generic power strips consist of several components, such as multiple electrical receptacles, an on/off switch, a circuit breaker, a power cord and a grounded plug. UL refers to these power strips as “Relocatable Power Taps (RPT),” defined and listed in UL 1363.
In 1990, manufacturers introduced RPTs with “hospital-grade” plugs and receptacles that have additional features and performance requirements for improved grounding reliability, assembly integrity, strength and durability. Around 2000, UL introduced new labeling and marketing requirements for hospital-grade strips. Under the new guidelines, power strips needed to meet the medical electrical equipment requirements. In 2010, UL adopted UL 1363A, a new standard for “Special Purpose Relocatable Power Taps,” power strips permanently attached to medical equipment assemblies. As a result, power strips used in patient care areas must be tested to UL standard UL 1363A or UL 60601-1.
Regulations, standards and codes are not laws, but rather, criteria that certifying bodies such as CMS and The Joint Commission use to benchmark electrical safety for patients and staff. Understanding regulations, and especially how regulations are interpreted and applied, is a complex and confusing task for anyone who is not experienced in dealing with them. The first step in understanding and successfully interpreting the regulations is familiarizing yourself with the relevant codes and standards applicable to your requirements. Ultimately, you need to make sure you follow the code. Once you become familiar with the code, you can work with regulators and experienced partners to ensure your compliance strategy is successful.
Many regulatory violations are for improper installation of approved power strips, even when the right kind of strip is being used in the right location for the right application. Improper installation will render all your other efforts useless, so it is crucial to make installation part of your power strip policy and to understand what regulators are looking for when they inspect your facility. OSHA requires that “listed or labeled equipment shall be installed and used in accordance with any instructions included in the listing or labeling.”
It is important to understand that there is not a single type of health care power strip that is suitable for every application in your facility. Each category of health care power strip has a specific purpose and should not be used for a different purpose that it is not designed and approved for. Health care power strips (including surge protectors) can be divided into four primary application groups that use different technologies and meet varying UL standards:
1. Medical-Grade Power Strips (UL 60601-1)
2. Medical-Grade Power Strips for Mobile Applications (UL 1363A)
3. Power Strips for Administrative Areas and Operating Rooms with Isolation (UL 1363)
4. Surge Protectors for Administrative Areas (UL 1449)
Medical-grade power strips meet the requirements of medical equipment (UL 60601-1 or UL 1363A) and they can be used in the “Patient Care Vicinity.” Power strips that do not meet UL 60601-1 or UL 1363A cannot be used in the Patient Care Vicinity.
Whether you consider power strips indispensable cost-saving devices or a necessary nuisance, it is all but certain that they are or will be used within your health care facility. By designing and implementing a power strip policy, the need for accessible power can be achieved without losing sight of a health care administration’s mission to protect patients.
For more information, download Tripp Lite’s white paper, “Power Strip Safety and Regulatory Compliance: A Comprehensive Guide to Utilizing Power Strips in Healthcare Facilities,” at http://www2.tripplite.com/malp/medical-power-strip-white-paper.
*By entering your email address, you agree to receive emails regarding TechNation Magazine, Webinars, and Exclusive Promos.
© 2021, TechNation Magazine. Site designed by MD Publishing, Inc.