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How to Use a Negative Air Machine in Hospital Renovations

Any renovation is a messy job. Whether you’re replacing a bathroom sink or revamping an entire hospital wing, renovation is going to create a lot of dust, debris, and in the case of a healthcare environment, a lot of germs.

While it’s not possible to complete a hospital renovation without kicking up some dust, the right tools will make that dust much more manageable and keep your workers, as well as hospital patients and personnel, safe during the process.

A negative air machine is one critical tool in any hospital renovation project. When used correctly, this type of machine can significantly reduce the amount of dust and pathogens that are circulated into other parts of the renovation project and operating hospital areas.

1. Understand Why a Negative Air Machine is Necessary

To use a negative air machine in a renovation project, the first step is to understand what these devices are and why they are necessary. Also known as air scrubbers, these machines create a pressure differential between two different areas. Air wants to move from higher pressure areas to lower pressure areas to reach equilibrium. Negative air pressure machines use this natural inclination to the advantage of infection control and dust containment by directing unfiltered air to HEPA filtration units and away from patient areas.

2. Assess the Environment

Take stock of the area to be renovated before considering a negative air machine. How big is the renovation area? Will you be able to set up proper ventilation (see step 3)? How well will you be able to insulate the area from patient areas? What about staff areas? How many rooms will need to be closed during renovations? Depending on the environment, you will need to ask a different set of questions for every project.

3. Negotiate Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is the most important part of negative air machine set up. The machine uses a fan system to force air out the isolated area and through a HEPA filter before it is exhausted into another area of the facility. If HEPA filtration is not available, air must be ventilated to the outside. Before any work starts, it is essential to determine how ventilation will best work in the impacted area.

4. Calculate Required ACH

The actual calculation of airflow as a cited criteria for effective containment is known as air changes per hour or ACH. ACH is the measure of air volume that can be added and removed from a space in a given hour. One air change results when all air has been replaced. It is a complete recycling of the air. General guidelines are that spaces with immunocompromised patients should have 15 ACH or more. If there are not immunocompromised patients, many facilities accept 12 ACH.

Operating and delivery rooms usually have recirculating air systems that provide 25 ACH. In a renovation project, there may be no strict guidelines regarding ACH because patients will not be present, but be sure to reach out to infection control personnel at the facility to determine what is right for your project.

5. Change Filters When Needed

If air from your renovation process is not be vented to the outside and instead is being forced through a HEPA filter, it is critical that the filters are changed per manufacturer directions. When a HEPA filter is old, it cannot operate at the same level as when it is new, meaning more particles could get through than is recommended. Be sure that filter changes are built into the renovation schedule.

Using negative air machines in a hospital renovation is one of the best ways to ensure that dangerous dust and pathogens do not come in contact with patients or hospital staff. By being prepared for the use of this type of machine, you will be ahead of the curve in hospital construction.

To learn more about planning and executing hospital renovations, download our free eBook below.

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