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Compliance News: Additional Information on Relocatable Power Taps

| David Stymiest

There has been activity without many answers since TJC Director of Engineering George Mills announced a change in TJC’s approach to power strips in patient care areas on June 1, 2014 at the AAMI Conference. Although most facility managers call these devices power strips, both Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and CMS call them relocatable power taps reflecting the UL product category Relocatable Power Taps (XBYS).

ASHE Deputy Executive Director Chad Beebe stated at the recently-concluded ASHE Annual Conference that ASHE is working with CMS and others to attempt to convince CMS to issue a categorical waiver that reflects the language of NFPA 99-2012. Whether or not CMS issues the sought-after categorical waiver, the following language in NFPA 99-2012 paragraph (Multiple Outlet Connection) may become official for survey purposes in the future if CMS adopts NFPA 99-2012 as it has indicated it intends to do. The 2012 NFPA 99 requirements, which may still be more restrictive than many hospitals currently practice, state:

Two or more power receptacles supplied by a flexible cord shall be permitted to be used to supply power to plug-connected components of a movable equipment assembly that is rack-, table-, pedestal-, or cart-mounted, provided that all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The receptacles are permanently attached to the equipment assembly.

(2)* The sum of the ampacity of all appliances connected to the outlets does not exceed 75 percent of the ampacity of the flexible cord supplying the outlets.

(3) The ampacity of the flexible cord is in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.

(4)* The electrical and mechanical integrity of the assembly is regularly verified and documented.

(5)* Means are employed to ensure that additional devices or nonmedical equipment cannot be connected to the multiple outlet extension cord after leakage currents have been verified as safe.

NOTE TO READERS: Refer to the full NFPA 99-2012 for the Annex recommendations and explanations that are invoked by the asterisk [*] symbols after subparagraphs (2), (4), and (5).

We are not aware of any national AHJ that permits relocatable power taps to be plugged into each other or into extension cords, a practice commonly known as a daisy chain.

In its June 17, 2014 issue of ASHE Insider, ASHE presented Mr. Beebe’s guidance to ASHE members, which includes details for inspecting the present use of relocatable power taps in their facilities to ensure they are being used properly.

In his recent ASHE Annual Conference presentation, Mr. Mills recommended that TJC-accredited organizations create an inventory of their existing relocatable power taps. We also recommend that an inventory be created as a prudent first step since it is not practical to assess the impact of any regulatory requirements without knowing the extent of the issue.

As we stated previously, the recent TJC changes do not reflect a change in the more restrictive CMS interpretations that have been in effect for several years. Background on this issue is available in our March 2009 blog posting.