The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – High Risk Fire Hazards & Precautions – Part 104

December 2, 2019 2:45 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, our aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 103, LWF considered the impact of outside work contractors and works on the fire safety provision in a healthcare environment. In part 104, we will discuss medical gases as another area which can be a potential high risk in healthcare environments.

Health Technical Memorandum 02-01 – ‘Medical gas pipeline systems’ contains specific guidance on fire precautions relating to medical gases and should be referred to as appropriate. Additional guidance may also be sought from the supplier of gas. It is important for the safety of the occupants of healthcare buildings that any specific recommendations be followed.

Flammable materials must not be stored in the same areas as gas cylinders, manifold rooms or liquid oxygen compounds, and ideally should be kept away from all areas where medical gases are stored or being used. It is accepted, however, that it is not always possible to avoid flammable materials being near to the patients when medical gases are being used.

Such items as named in HTM 05-03 might be nail-polish removers, oil-based lubricants, skin lotions, cosmetic tissues, clothing, bed linen, rubber and plastic items, alcohols, acetone, disinfectants and skin-preparation solutions. While the avoidance of all of those items in patient areas would not be practical, staff should be made aware of the fire risks posed by those items and materials during fire safety training.

In areas where medical oxygen or nitrous oxide/oxygen mixtures are used, there can be an atmosphere containing more oxygen than usual. While oxygen itself is not flammable, it does make other things ignite at lower temperatures and burn faster and hotter. Nitrous oxide also supports combustion.

There can be no fire without a source of ignition, however, but those sources are plentiful. Open flames, cigarettes, lighters, matches, sparks and electrical sparks – even ones caused by children’s toys – high-frequency, short-wave and laser equipment, arcing and excessively high temperatures in electrical equipment such as hairdryers, cardiac defibrillator discharge, static electricity etc. are all capable of causing ignition in a volatile environment.

In part 104 of this series, LWF will continue to look at the potential high risk of fire where medical gases are present. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information

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