The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – High Risk Fire Hazards & Precautions – Part 105

December 9, 2019 3:44 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 104, LWF discussed the use and storage of medical gases, which can be a potential high risk in healthcare environments. In part 105, we will continue to look at the potential high risk of fire where medical gases are present.

Breathing gases can support an atmosphere which exacerbates the risk of combustion. An oxygen or nitrous-oxide enriched atmosphere can cause materials which would not normally be considered flammable to become so, and materials which would be considered flammable to ignite and burn much more easily.

It is possible for clothing worn by personnel to become saturated with oxygen or nitrous oxide and for that to be an increased fire risk for the individual and the venue. After leaving an enriched atmosphere, it can take around five minutes for clothing to return to normal levels in ambient air. Piles of material, such as folded blankets or sheets should be turned over several times in a normal ambient environment to disperse the effects of having been in an enriched oxygen or nitrous-oxide environment.

One significant danger is that in high pressure oxygen or nitrous-oxide environments, oil and grease can ignite spontaneously, even when only present in tiny quantities. For this reason, no oil or grease is permitted for use in any part of the medical gas pipeline system. Oil-based lubricants are a particular danger and all pipes, fittings etc. should be supplied degreased, sealed and labelled for medical gas pipeline systems.

In order to protect areas from significant high risk such as those areas likely to have enriched atmospheres; plantrooms, medical gas manifold rooms and ready-use medical gas cylinder stores in healthcare premises, fire detection systems should be installed and maintained.

Signage is another important fire safety precaution. When oxygen therapy equipment is used, fire and safety warning signs and labels should be clearly displayed at the place of administration to ensure staff, patients and visitors that oxygen is in use. When identified as part of a fire risk assessment, it might be appropriate to consider the use of an in-line oxygen arrester.

In part 106 of this series, LWF will continue looking at the precautions which should be taken when using oxygen in a healthcare venue to reduce the risk of fire accidents. 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

Share this post