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Hospital Risk Management: Helping Cut Airborne Pathogens

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Renovating a healthcare facility is no small feat. Beyond the structural upgrades and aesthetic improvements, your role as a facility manager means ensuring the safety and well-being of patients, staff, and construction teams. Especially when a construction project involves an entire wing or whole building, the impacts of construction risks can feel overwhelming and difficult to manage safely. In fact, hospital-acquired infections related to construction and renovation activities account for more than 5,000 deaths per year across the United States, according to a study done by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. This means that not only are these infections more common than you may think — they’re also more deadly. Similarly, a study done by the Journal of Hospital Infection reports that the link between construction activities and infections like invasive aspergillosis is well-understood and “can cause significant morbidity and mortality and imposes a substantial burden on the healthcare system.” 

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With information like this out there, it’s critical to consider the most common healthcare construction risks — infection control, staff safety, fall prevention, and airborne particles — as well as how to limit their significant negative impact on all areas of your facility through even the most invasive construction projects. 

The Top 3 Safety Issues for Hospital Construction Managers

While we cannot control every potential risk, facility managers can take steps to dramatically reduce the risk to patients and staff alike in these three areas: 

Infection Control

Infection control tops the list of concerns during hospital renovations of any kind. It’s crucial to maintain a strict separation between construction zones and patient areas. This separation is not only important for patients and staff but maybe even more so for contractors and their teams. Because they are working inside of the construction areas day-to-day, any potential risk will impact them more severely than others in your facility. 

The best way to create a healthy barrier between sensitive populations and a construction area is to filter any air that leaves the construction zone through a HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filter before releasing it back into another area of your facility. This is a non-negotiable as a part of your hospital risk management, particularly when there is a risk of harmful debris getting kicked up in the construction process. 

Staff Safety

Hospitals are among the most hazardous workplaces out there, with comparatively very high injury rates reported by OSHA. Because of this, facility managers must take care to implement processes and procedures to keep the health and safety of hospital staff as a top priority. If your staff is subjected to dangerous dust or debris, your facility can experience a whole range of negative effects, including more sick days, lowered productivity, and potentially spreading illness to patients. By prioritizing the safety of hospital staff and construction crews, you not only save money but also help keep your facility’s daily operations running smoothly without a hitch. 

Fall Prevention

Falls are not only dangerous for patients but can also lead to significant financial costs for hospitals. In fact, a severe fall-related injury can cost upwards of $13,000, according to the Joint Commission. As a part of responsible risk mitigation, it’s important to consider potential fall risks at the top of your mind as you’re planning out an upcoming construction or renovation project with a hospital designer. Be careful to avoid potential tripping hazards ahead of time, but also keep an eye out for fall risks throughout the project.

How to Powerfully Prevent Airborne Pathogens

One of the leading causes of poor indoor air quality, or IAQ, is dangerous airborne pathogens. These can lead to airborne disorders, which are any disease that is caused by microorganisms transmitted through the air. From bacteria and viruses to fungi and other pathogens, these particles can be disturbed and launched airborne through a wide variety of construction and renovation projects. 

Whether during an invasive overhaul of a hospital wing or routine maintenance, you and your facility management teams must be aware of the dangers of airborne particles and take active precautions to limit your staff and patients’ exposure. 

4 Ways to Destroy Airborne Pathogens in Your Facility

Limiting potential dust-stirring construction activities is only possible to a certain extent while still accomplishing the goals of your renovation project. Beyond preventative measures, what can you do to control airborne particles after the fact? Modern healthcare facilities take advantage of four distinct methods of cleaning the air inside your facility to keep construction teams, patients, and staff safe: ventilation, air distribution, air filtration, and air disinfection. 

  • Ventilation: Introducing clean air from outside into the facility helps dilute the concentration of airborne pathogens, cutting their presence in half with proper ventilation strategies. This method depends on the quality of outdoor air being circulated within, so be careful to monitor the air quality outdoors before introducing it into a potentially sensitive indoor area. 
  • Air Distribution: Optimizing airflow patterns is crucial to prevent the spread of pathogens. An HVAC expert, working alongside medical staff, can determine the best setup for air outlets to minimize cross-infection risks, ensuring that air distribution supports a healthy environment. If necessary, consider implementing HEPA filtration to allow for safe air distribution. 
  • Air Filtration: Deploying filtration equipment like our HEPAFORCE® Negative Air Machines enables the isolation of specific areas by adjusting air pressure, with HEPA filters capturing 99.99% of particles at 0.3 microns. However you choose to take advantage of air filtration, this process allows you to physically remove harmful particles directly from the air and lock them away in the HEPA filter. 
  • Air Disinfection: In high-risk environments, such as healthcare settings, UV-C significantly reduces the transmission of airborne diseases. However, it can be dangerous for human eyes and skin. For a safer alternative, consider implementing Far-UV. Far-UV is both much more dangerous to pathogens (breaking their chemical bonds) and much safer around humans than UV-C. Whichever method you select, disinfection destroys airborne particles without having to physically remove them from the air. This way, they are unable to wreak havoc while being a highly effective defense against the spread of infection and irritation.

Learn more about incorporating Far-UV in our guide, “10 Facts About Far-UV-C.” Get your free download today. 

Empower Your Hospital Risk Management With Confidence

For facility managers overseeing construction projects, it's all about planning effectively and keeping everyone safe. You've got to think about where the work is happening, who's around, and what the impact of the project may be. 

With a solid plan that includes the right gear, smart ways to work, and safety steps for your construction crew, you can keep the hospital running smoothly. This way, you cut down on the stress of guessing and make sure your project doesn't throw a wrench in daily hospital operations. 

Take the guesswork out of the planning process and navigate how to maintain the safest indoor air with our ultimate guide today. 


The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Air Quality in High-Risk Environments