Magazine article Health Facilities Management

ASHE Urges Lower or Humidity Requirement

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

ASHE Urges Lower or Humidity Requirement

Article excerpt

Codes and standards regulating health care facilities can be important safety precautions at the time they are adopted, but if codes are not kept up-to-date they can become obsolete as the hospital environment changes over time. One example of this is the requirement for operating rooms to have a minimum relative humidity of 35 percent.

Humidity requirements were added to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes in an effort to reduce the probability of static discharge, which was an important precaution 30 years ago when flammable anesthetics were used. Now this requirement is no longer needed, but it still remains in the 1999 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, and is, therefore, required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

ASHE is working with CMS on this issue. We at ASHE are hopeful that a change will be made. By lowering the humidity minimum to 20 percent in operating rooms, the health care industry could save millions of dollars without compromising patient safety.

Hospital facilities would save money and energy if they only had to reach a 20 percent humidity level instead of a 35 percent level. And some hospitals in humid climates may save even more if they no longer need to install and maintain humidification equipment.

It's important to note that the money and energy saved by a lower humidity requirement would not come at a cost to patient safety. When the 35 percent humidity requirement was included in NFPA 99, there was real concern for patients because of the risk of fire and explosion when using flammable gases. …

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