There are a lot of reasons to pay close attention to the dust containment procedures and protocols at your hospital. You want to be sure you're following all regulatory guidelines. And you want to find containment measures that won't break your budget and don't require hours of training.
But the actual reasons behind dust containment should go beyond merely following the rules to the core of why containment regulations even exist: patient safety. How can dust containment affect vulnerable hospital patients -- and how can you mitigate that risk? Keep reading to find out.
Dust Containment & Patient Safety
In hospitals, dust containment regulations exist because dust and debris from construction and maintenance projects can lead to serious health complications for patients. In fact, one study found that 5% of all healthcare associated deaths are caused by construction and maintenance projects. Dust containment is about much more than keeping a facility looking clean -- it is about ensuring the best possible outcomes for the patients in those facilities.
When we think about the word dust in everyday contexts, we pay little attention to what actually comprises that dust. But in a hospital scenario, we know that construction and maintenance projects can stir up particularly dangerous components. Especially common are Aspergillus mold spores. When inhaled by patients, these spores can lead to pneumonia. According to the CDC, more than 3% of patients treated for pneumonia in a hospital will die, meaning preventing the infection in the first place is essential.
How to Measure Patient Risk
To determine the risk of adverse effects to patients, it is important to always consider the Infection Control Risk Assessment Matrix (ICRA) which outlines what types of activities are most hazardous and which types of environments are at the highest risk for having serious adverse effects if protocols are not followed. It should go without saying that patient environments are higher risk than administrative offices, while immunocompromised patient areas are the highest risk.
Which Methods Work Best?
Keeping patients safe means using the best possible dust containment methods. That means finding ways to keep patient areas safe and clean with the least possible chance of contamination from dust and debris.
While there are different containment methods that can keep dangerous spores and dust from coming into contact with patients, each method has a few things in common. Negative air pressure is essential to ensure that no dust escapes from the workspace. Further, a sealed area around any filtration is also critical. HEPA air filters are only as effective as their installation. Finally, there needs to be a way for contaminated workers - who have been in direct contact with the dust, debris, and spores that present a danger - to safely move in and out of the contained area without bringing the contamination with them.
While the efficacy of containment methods is the most critical, patient comfort is also important. Dust containment methods can cause noise pollution and may necessitate that pedestrian traffic be rerouted. The more that these types of discomfort can be avoided, the better. Portable dust containment units can be particularly effective in keeping passageways and rooms open for easy traffic flow throughout the hospital. Negative air machines and air filtration will always cause noise, but a small, sealed space may be able to contain that noise better. In addition, because the space is smaller, the negative air machine will not have to be as powerful (and therefore as loud) in order to create the right amount of pressure.
Ultimately, in a hospital, patient safety is the reason for dust containment and should be top priority for both hospital staff and any outside contractors who may be doing the dirty work. When the correct protocols and processes are in use, it is possible to lower the risks of patient infection, improving outcomes and maintaining a hospital's reputation at the same time.