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Construction Concerns: Hospital Acquired Infection Risks

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As healthcare facility managers, you navigate the balance of maintaining efficient operations while ensuring patient safety on a daily basis. This becomes particularly challenging during construction or renovation projects within hospital settings. These projects can stir up dust, debris, and microbial contaminants, jeopardizing the sterile environments that are crucial for patient recovery and health.

Beyond just the potential interruptions and spread of infection, construction brings with it many additional challenges and a layer of chaos to your facility that poses risks for increased Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). In this guide, we’ll explore how to address your concerns as a facility manager and to keep your facility as safe and efficient as possible during construction and renovation work. 

Navigating the Impact of Construction on Hospital Environments

When construction begins, it can stir up dust, debris, and microbial contaminants, which can easily contaminate sterile areas. This disruption can impact the cleanliness of operating rooms, patient wards, and other critical care areas, increasing the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

The movement of construction workers and equipment can spread pathogens from one area to another. Invasive activities like drilling and demolition can release hidden mold and bacteria into the air, which can then settle on surfaces or be inhaled by patients and staff. Poorly managed airflow can also allow contaminated air to flow into clean areas. Increased noise and vibration from construction can interrupt the facility’s normal routines, making it harder for staff to maintain strict infection control practices.

Common Sources of Hospital-Acquired Infections During Construction

Hospital-acquired infections are a significant concern in healthcare facilities undergoing construction. These infections can be caused by a variety of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which may be stirred up during building activities.

Whether because of invasive activities like jackhammering, opening of walls or ceilings, or simply the increased traffic and commotion caused by simple construction projects, HAIs are particularly risky. In order to keep your facility and everyone inside safe and healthy, it’s critical that you and your infection control teams put powerful preventative measures and machinery in place. 

The 3 Most Common HAI-Causing Pathogens


The most notorious culprits for HAIs include MRSA, C. difficile, and VRE — organisms that thrive in healthcare environments where antibiotics are used extensively and patients' immune systems are often compromised. While these pathogens can exist and even thrive without the added disturbance of construction, the increase in movement between areas and invasive construction activities means that they are more mobile and able to affect more individuals. For this reason, construction sets your facility up for an increase in infections if you aren’t careful. These pathogens are notorious for their resistance to standard antibiotic treatments, making infections difficult to manage.

  • MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus): Often found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals, MRSA can lead to severe and potentially deadly infections like bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and surgical site infections.
  • C. difficile (Clostridioides difficile): This bacterium causes severe diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis. It is notorious for its prevalence in healthcare settings due to its ability to survive on surfaces and its resistance to many common disinfectants.
  • VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci): These bacteria are part of the normal intestinal flora but can become pathogenic in immunocompromised patients, leading to complicated urinary tract infections, bacteremia, and endocarditis.

Learn more about these and other common disease-causing pathogens here. 

How Can You Protect Your Facility From the Threat of HAIs?

Whether you’re working against specific HAIs like Legionnaire’s or more generally looking to level up your facility’s infection control standards overall, practices like hand washing, training, protective equipment, and more can make a huge difference in your defense against disease. 

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Great Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene remains one of the most basic and effective methods to prevent the spread of infections. Make sure to enforce ongoing training, place visible reminders, and make sure that your facilities are set up in such a way that regular handwashing is easy. 

Implement Standard Safety Precautions

Beyond hand hygiene, there are a whole host of other ways that your facility can prioritize health and safety from HAIs during normal daily operations. For example, ensure that your construction crews, medical staff, and other hospital teams are wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection. Similarly, take care to train your cleaning staff in infection control methods and put standards in place that will maintain a high bar of health and safety around your facility. Lastly, and most importantly, keep a continual open dialogue with your staff to ensure that they are up-to-date on best practices for keeping HAIs at bay. 

Discover more ways to stay head of infection control during construction here. 

Protect Your Facility With Infection Control Measures During Construction

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During construction, maintaining strict infection control measures is key to protect patients and staff from hospital-acquired infections. Without paying special attention to the risks that come along with construction projects, you’re opening up your facility to significantly higher risks of an infection outbreak for already immunocompromised patients and hardworking medical staff members. 

By prioritizing infection control measures such as proper containment, air quality management, and thorough cleaning protocols, healthcare facilities can effectively mitigate the risks associated with construction

Keep Your Facility Safe From Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionnaires' disease is an HAI and a severe form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria, which thrives in warm water environments. This infection can pose serious health risks in healthcare settings, especially when construction activities impact water systems. This HAI in particular can cause major disruptions for a healthcare facility and vulnerable patient groups, so understanding what to look for and how to mitigate the risks should be a top priority.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease

Detecting Legionnaires' disease early is essential for effective treatment and preventing its spread within healthcare facilities. Its symptoms include:

  • High fever and chills
  • Cough, which may be dry or produce sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches and headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

How to Prevent Legionnaire’s Disease in Your Hospital

Keeping Legionnaires at bay requires special attention paid to your facility’s water systems. A few preventative measures that you can begin to implement include: 

  • Regular Water System Maintenance: Regularly inspect, clean, and disinfect all water systems, especially those that are prone to stagnation and can harbor Legionella.
  • Water Temperature Control: Maintain hot water temperatures at 140°F (60°C) or higher and cold water temperatures below 68°F (20°C) to inhibit the growth of Legionella.
  • Avoid Water Stagnation: Frequently flush out water lines and taps, especially in parts of the facility that are used less often.
  • Use of Disinfectants and Filters: Apply appropriate disinfectants regularly and consider installing filters on faucets and showerheads to help reduce exposure to the bacteria.
  • Comprehensive Water Safety Plan: Develop and implement a detailed water management program that assesses the entire water system and identifies areas where Legionella could grow. 

Find out how to protect your hospital from the dangers of Legionnaire’s here. 

6 Powerful HAI Prevention Strategies for Healthcare Facilities

To combat HAIs, healthcare facilities must implement comprehensive infection control strategies that include:

1. Use Barriers

Implement physical barriers such as wall dividers and personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection to block harmful particles and prevent the spread of infection, particularly near construction zones. This can also include the use of anterooms to create a barrier that still allows movement between areas in your facility in a safe way. 

2. Optimize Air Control

Regularly inspect and maintain HVAC systems to ensure optimal airflow and eliminate contaminants. Utilize HEPA filters and manage air pressure to maintain clean air in the healthcare setting. This also includes completing regular maintenance on your HVAC systems to ensure that they’re working to the best of their ability to support your overall infection control strategy.

3. Manage Noise and Vibration

Install soundproof materials and strategically plan construction activities to minimize noise and vibrations that can disrupt sterile environments in sensitive areas like operating rooms. From kicking up dust and debris to causing disruptions to delicate medical procedures, there are plenty of reasons to consider noise and vibrations from construction activities and their potentially disastrous impact on hospital operations. 

4. Remove Debris

Properly handle and contain construction dust and debris to prevent these particles from spreading diseases within the facility. Extra materials can carry invisible bacteria, dust, and other harmful substances, so the sooner you’re able to remove them from the area, the more protected your facility will be from infection. 

5. Conduct Environmental Sampling

Routinely sample the environment, including surfaces and air, to assess the effectiveness of current cleaning protocols and identify potential risks early. By tracking the potential disease-causing elements in your facility, you’re better able to prevent and prepare for any infections that construction work might cause.

6. Implement Cleaning Standards

Adhere to evidence-based cleaning protocols and use appropriate disinfectants tailored to different areas of the facility to ensure cleanliness and infection control standards. Consult regulatory bodies as well as industry educational sources to determine the best practices for your cleaning crews to uphold. 

Discover more practical strategies to keep your facility safe and compliant here.

Role of Healthcare Facility Management in Preventing Infections

Healthcare facility managers play a vital role in addressing the concerns that come along with healthcare construction. Managers are responsible for enforcing the infection control measures and that all staff, from construction workers to healthcare providers, are well-trained in these protocols. After all, the team can only protect the facility from the dangers that construction can bring to the extent that they are educated in effective infection control measures. 

Managers should develop detailed infection control plans that include strategies for containing dust and debris, managing air quality, and maintaining clean environments. Regular inspections and audits can help identify potential risks early, allowing for prompt corrective actions.

The Vital Role of Ventilation Systems in Preventing HAIs

Proper ventilation is crucial in healthcare facilities, especially during construction or renovation projects that heighten the risk of hospital-acquired infections. Effective ventilation systems are essential for maintaining safe air quality by introducing and distributing clean outdoor air throughout the facility.

How Effective Ventilation Promotes a Safe Hospital Environment

Good ventilation helps reduce airborne contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, and pollutants, which is crucial for preventing the spread of infections. Additionally, proper ventilation regulates humidity levels within the facility, preventing the growth of mold and other fungi that can compromise patient health. It also plays a significant role in eliminating odors, which helps maintain a comfortable and clean environment that is conducive to patient recovery.

Maintain Your Ventilation Systems for Optimal Performance

To ensure that hospital ventilation systems are performing optimally, regular maintenance is necessary. This includes routine inspections and cleaning of all ventilation components, such as filters and ducts, to maintain system efficiency. It's also important to monitor airflow and quality using advanced tools to detect any issues promptly, allowing for immediate adjustments. 

Facilities should consider upgrading their technology when needed to enhance the functionality and efficiency of their systems, such as incorporating HEPA filters. Additionally, staff should be thoroughly trained on the operation and maintenance of ventilation systems to ensure they can handle routine tasks and respond effectively in emergencies.

Explore proper healthcare ventilation strategies and more here. 

Staying Up-to-Date With Infection Control Guidelines

Keeping your facility safe through construction also means staying updated with regulatory bodies that set compliance and safety standards for healthcare. 

Together, these resources support healthcare facilities in maintaining high standards of infection control during all forms of construction and renovation. 

Explore more ways to keep you facility in the know about changes in best practices and regulatory compliance here. 

The Importance of Teamwork in Preventing HAIs During Construction

Ultimately, the best thing that your facility can do to address safety concerns in a healthcare setting is to educate your teams — both construction and healthcare — and ensure that everyone is collaborating toward to goal of safety through construction projects. The more everyone is informed and involved in HAI prevention, the more likely that your facility is to keep risks at a minimum. 

From monitoring updates from regulatory agencies to pursuing certifications and continued training, the opportunities that you provide to construction teams and healthcare professionals will be instrumental in the safety of your hospital overall. To learn more about keeping infection at bay through construction projects, download our free Infection Control Guide for Facility Managers today. 

Read Infection Control For Facilities Managers Guide

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