Thanks to Ruben Garcia, The Life Safety Guy, for creating this FAQ! Connect with Ruben HERE
Regulatory Compliance Insight of the Week: Maintaining Pressure-Dependent Spaces in Healthcare
The upkeep and maintenance of pressure-dependent spaces in healthcare settings are vital to reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Proper ventilation and air pressure differentials will reduce and prevent the transmission of airborne pathogens, one of the most dangerous HAI pathogens. Healthcare spaces required to undergo special ventilation and air pressure differential requirements will fall into two categories: positive pressured or negative pressured, in relation to their respective adjacent spaces.
- Positive Pressured Rooms: Also known as protective rooms, these push air outwards to combat air pathogens from contaminating patients or clean supplies in rooms. Typical positive pressured rooms are operating rooms and clean supply rooms.
- Negative Pressured Rooms: These suck in air like a vacuum and contain airborne contaminants within the room. Rooms required to be negatively pressured include soiled workrooms, isolation rooms, janitor closets, restrooms, and ER waiting areas.
There are several ways to monitor and maintain your pressure-dependent spaces:
- Electronic Monitoring: Through an integrated building automation system (BAS) or a dedicated stand-alone system. Wires run to pressure sensors near the openings and back to a control panel, monitoring pressure relationships in real time and alerting end-users if a room is out of compliance.
- Local Visual Indication: For less critical spaces, such as soiled holding rooms and clean workrooms. A visual indicator device above a door opening provides real-time pressure status indication.
- Handheld Air Pressure Instruments and Meters: Used to record air pressure differentials.
- “Flutter” Test: Checks airflow directions using smoke, an airflow checker, or a tissue positioned at the undercut of a doorway to monitor the direction.
Refer to the 2008 edition of ASHRAE’s Standard 170, Ventilation of Health Care Facilities for further guidance.
Bonus Tip: Consider including all of your pressure-dependent spaces on your inventory onto your ventilation testing program to include the pressurized spaces deemed less critical such as Soiled Utility Rooms, Janitor Closets, Restrooms, and Clean Supply Rooms. Pressured room issues continue to be one of the top findings from all accreditation organizations. An airflow issue can easily turn a smooth survey into a rather unfavorable survey outcome and can lead into a condition level finding or worse – an IJ (immediate jeopardy).