Coventry Health Centre

Electrical Safety in Healthcare and Hospital Facilities

Calbarrie’s Tim Beardsmore explains the particular challenges faced when managing electrical compliance in healthcare and hospital buildings. 

Electrical safety testing in the healthcare sector raises specific concerns. Whilst ensuring that patients, staff and the public are safe the services need to be accessible at all times. A specialist contractor can provide guidance on how to develop a robust test and inspection regime with risk assessments based on experience and knowledge that are required to achieve electrical compliance.

Electrical equipment can present a range of hazards to patients and staff, and it is a moral and legal obligation for an employer to take measures to minimise the risk. Faulty mains powered electrical equipment can present the risk of fire and explosion; and all electrical equipment has the potential to expose people to the risk of electric shock unless regularly tested and the correct calibration procedures carried out.

Access is a challenge when testing in hospitals and healthcare facilities where medical electrical equipment cannot be powered down; and flexibility is crucial in order to minimise disruption to services. Testing in patient areas in particular requires careful planning, and a contractor who has an established and directly employed labour-force and vigilantly carries out regular checks on work permits and security clearances should inspire confidence. Contact with contaminated areas also requires careful consideration to reduce the risk of any infection being transferred.

Pre-start surveys and meetings will identify any specific health and safety risks posed by the site and requirements for specialist training and personal protective equipment. For some healthcare sites there may be the need for a chaperone – a client representative – who will accompany the engineer around the site.

Powering down of communications equipment and the risk to personal data can also be a concern for the healthcare sector, and one that requires dynamic scheduling and collaboration between the contractor, site security and IT representatives. A contractor can reduce the risk of data loss with tailored IT systems for record-keeping, and an Application Programming Interface (API) can enable secure and effective communication between systems with the contractor uploading data directly onto the client’s software. An experienced service provider should also have its own information security management system and trained employees for managing personal data in line with regulation.

Healthcare facilities may need to consider how they deliver services cost effectively whilst maintaining quality of service. As well as price and safety, a tender process should also require a service provider to demonstrate a commitment to the client’s core values and how they can bring added-value to the contract through tried and tested management systems and innovation. An experienced contractor will have attained industry standards such as ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001. Membership of a reputable safety body such as RoSPA and compliance with recognised codes of practice will provide further evidence of an effective safety management system. Engineers who have received specialist training in health and safety working in public areas can put in place measures to manage risk to patients, staff and the public. It is also essential for the contractor to have sufficient levels of liability insurance cover.

An experienced provider will have the ability to share the client’s responsibilities. A good company should offer a total compliance service with online test records, automated reminders for when testing and inspection is due, and a central asset management database. Ultimately an expert provider can manage the challenges faced by the healthcare sector around electrical compliance by building sustainable relationships and committing to shared values that improve performance, reduce costs and increase control.    

Calbarrie has provided electrical compliance services to Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust since 2016. Our case study explains the programme involved in testing non-medical equipment and electrical installations in clinical and non-clinical areas across the Trust’s primary and community care estates.

You can also read the full article in June’s edition of Tomorrow’s FM.

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