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Compliance News: Ongoing Challenges with HVAC Systems Addressed

| David Stymiest

ASHE and five other professional organizations issued an important Joint Interim Guidance statement in late September addressing the ongoing challenges with HVAC systems serving operating rooms and sterile processing departments.  The Joint Interim Guidance document was dated September 21, 2015 and issued shortly thereafter as a PDF file by the signatory organizations.

The six signatory organizations that jointly issued the guidance, along with active URLs where the guidance document could be obtained as of this article’s publication date, are listed below.  Readers of this article are urged to obtain the joint statement, review it, and distribute it with action items within their facilities.

The joint guidance statement addresses today’s confusion and conflicts between standards that are intended to be applied during design and renovation of a facility and other standards that are intended to be used as daily operational guidelines.  The joint guidance statement emphasizes that design requirements (such as the ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Standard 170-2013 and the 2014 FGI guidelines) are NOT the same as clinical practice recommendations (such as AAMI ST79 and AORN Guideline for a Safe Environment of Care, Part 2.)

The joint statement introduces some of the joint HVAC task force work to date, including establishing common terminology (listed within the joint statement) to describe similar spaces.  The recommended common terminology list addresses the existing challenge caused by terminology differences between existing editions of standards.

Citing the fact that harmonize both design and operational requirements between multiple published standards will take time, the joint HVAC task force also provides interim guidance within the joint statement while this process is undertaken to completion. This interim guidance is being provided for health care organizations, medical device manufacturers, and accreditation surveyors.

The guidance for healthcare organizations generally includes (refer to the joint statement for details):

  • Determine the required HVAC operating parameters for the listed areas
  • Review HVAC operating practices and perform risk assessment(s)
  • Provide additional requirements within HVAC policies/procedures
  • Move some products and devices into locations or cabinets with better temperature and humidity control

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