Complete Guide to Dust Containment to Meet ICRA Standards
by HEPACART on Oct 12, 2022
As a contractor, you know that dust containment is a critical part of your healthcare construction jobs. But your job also means that you can’t be everywhere at once, which may mean leaving important containment tasks up to your crew.
With something so important, that could have a significant impact on the health of hospital patients, and the health of your career as a contractor, you will want to be sure your crew knows what they are doing.
What Your Crew Needs to Know
Different members of your crew will need different levels of expertise in the area of dust containment. Following are a few guidelines for what kind of baseline knowledge you should expect from your crew in general.
What Dust Containment Is
If you’re working in the healthcare setting, your crew should know what dust containment is. This does not necessarily mean that every person you hire needs to be able to recite ICRA guidelines or should be tracking ACH, but it does mean that if you ask one of them what dust containment is, they should be able to explain it to you at a superficial level.
Why Dust Containment is Important
It will be much easier for your crew to remember what dust containment is if they also know why it is important. When you are talking to your crew about containment, be sure to emphasize the real risks that patients face with the dust produced in construction and renovation projects. Lives and health are truly at stake.
Which Projects Require Dust Containment
Not every project you undertake is going to require containment measures and your crew will know that. The longer you work with a team, the better able to distinguish between projects that have containment requirements and those that do not. Still, there can be some situations where these needs might not be as evident, such as a repair project for a water fountain, or an above-ceiling maintenance project.
How to Use Dust Containment Tools
Workers that will need to implement containment protocol should be trained in the tools necessary to achieve a properly contained job site. Some tools are simple to use, such as portable containment carts, but when it comes to tasks like setting up a negative air machine and ventilation system, further instruction may be required.
Advanced Dust Containment Training
Of course, some members of your crew will need or want to learn more about containment requirements. In this case, there are more expensive training options for you and your crew.
Formal training in ICRA protocol can be quite effective in emphasizing the importance of infection control and dust containment at a job site.
Some organizations offer hands-on training for construction professionals in ICRA protocol, including:
Your crew is an integral part of the work you do. They should be able to rely on you to train them or at least to ensure that they have the requisite knowledge to do a good safe job.
There are few positions in the professional world where budget does not come into play and healthcare is no different. A recent survey found that at least 34% of facilities managers saw operating budgets reduced in 2012, for instance. But with the health of patients on the line, cutting corners is never an option. Luckily, it is possible to maintain strict dust containment standards without going over budget, as long as you know how to shop.
The Importance of Dust Containment
When creating a budget, managers must give priority to those areas that will have the most impact, meaning where the most savings is possible to maximize profits. This is true even at non-profit healthcare facilities. Proper dust containment, although it requires an initial expenditure, can lower costs for healthcare facilities overall and reduction in operating costs has the same effect as an increase in revenue. That is because hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) can cost a facility huge amounts and proper containment lowers the risk of HAIs.
Upfront Costs vs. Lifetime Costs
When comparing containment options in light of budgets, it is essential to look at the upfront costs versus the lifetime costs. For instance, temporary options such as plastic sheeting may have a very low upfront cost. However, their temporary nature means that more plastic needs to be purchased time and again. There is no permanence to this particular solution. That means each year, the same budget needs to be allocated for these types of materials. Further, to set up proper containment using a temporary structure like this takes time, and the more time setup takes, the less efficient workers can be.
On the other hand, a portable containment cart is more costly upfront, but its durability means that it need only impact the budget once and can stay in use for many years after that. In addition, there is hardly any setup time associated with a portable dust containment enclosure, which allows workers to finish tasks faster, also saving the facility money.
Look for a Warranty
To lower the overall lifetime cost of a containment cart, a warranty can help. Even a dust containment enclosure that has been through thorough testing can have unforeseen defects. With a warranty, if anything breaks within a certain time period, it will be fixed - or even replaced - free of charge. This can certainly provide some budget relief if repairs are necessary while the containment unit is still new.
Taking containment issues seriously is an important part of managing a clean and safe facility, but investing in the best options does not have to mean spending the most money. Ensure that containment standards are met while keeping worker efficiency in mind to meet regulations and stay on budget.
HEPACART® helps hospitals and contractors with the art of containment. We define the art of containment as:
- Choosing the best tools for the containment application.
- Utilizing those tools in a competent way.
- Looking 'good' doing it. ("good" = safe, serious and professional)
Because it has been more than a year since our last blog series on the art of containment, we thought it was time to revisit this critical piece of our business and yours. In this post, you will learn what dust containment is, which tools are most effective in enacting containment policies, and how you can start applying the principles of the art of containment today.
For a deeper dive into the art of containment, be sure to check out our series here:
- The Art of Containment: An Introduction
- The Art of Containment: Key Points in Patient and Worker Safety
- The Art of Containment: Choosing the Right Methods
What is the Art of Containment?
HEPACART is committed to the art of containment, as it applies to hospitals and healthcare environments. Dust containment involves keeping patients and employees safe from potentially hazardous airborne particles through the use of tested and proven technology and tools. Containment is always a consideration for construction and renovation projects in healthcare facilities where patients are present, but the truth is that even minor maintenance projects can put patients and employees at risk.
Despite the fact that there is substantial science behind the process and procedures of dust abatement, we call it an art because the methods that you use to control potentially hazardous dust must not only be chosen carefully but also implemented correctly.
Effective Dust Containment Tools
The best (and by best we mean most effective and trusted) tools for a dust containment project will not always be the same. Part of the art of containment is a thorough assessment of the individual needs of your project.
Projects that involve just one or two workers can benefit from the use of a mobile containment unit. These types of products are extremely effective for use in ceiling access projects, where dust and spores are stirred up above the ceiling tiles in a healthcare environment.
Mobile containment units are not always practical. Some construction and maintenance projects will need space for much more than one or two workers. In cases that require bigger, more stationary measures, consider portable walls or anterooms that feature filtration. Anterooms are easy to install at the entrances to construction sites to contain the dust generated by entire rooms or wings of a healthcare facility.
Questions to Ask
When choosing among the wide range of containment technology available, it is important to ask key questions about its efficacy and functionality. Some questions that you may find useful in finding the right containment solutions for you include:
- Does the containment unit have true HEPA-filtration 99.97% or better and has the filtration system (not just the filter) been certified as such for ICRA compliance?
- Do the negative air machine and fan assembly meet the air-flow requirements necessary to safely filter the air?
- Does the unit clean up and sanitize quickly and easily? Better cleaning of the unit equals safer patients.
- Will the containment enclosure resist tears at the areas of most common occurrence?
- Are there clear steps of operation for the containment unit? If it is used correctly then the environment is safer for patients.
- Is the seal to the ceiling or door air tight, spring-loaded or does it have another mechanism to make sure all dust exiting the ceiling is contained?
- Does the process built into the containment make sense for patient safety? Examine this one closely as some are safer than others.
Start Applying Dust Containment Protocols Today
While the products you use are essential to a clean and safe environment, the art of containment relies on buy-in from all personnel, even those who are not directly involved in ceiling access, maintenance, or hospital construction. The most important thing you can do today to ensure your protocol is up to the right standards is to make sure that all staff members are on board for this critical patient safety measure. From there, you can begin to evaluate your current processes and products that keep containment and patient safety top of mind for everyone.