Oxygen-Related Fires Target of Safety Alert

By Dan Hounsell
May 12, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a host of potential threats to the health and safety of workers and patients in healthcare facilities — most notably, from the airborne transmission of the coronavirus that causes the disease. Now managers also must be aware of and prepare for another potential threat.

The European Commission Joint Research Centre recently issued a special lessons learned bulletin regarding the risk of oxygen-related fires in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, according to Health Facilities Management. Incidents such as the hospital fire in Baghdad in which more than 80 people died in what appeared to be an oxygen-related fire indicates the increased risk in such fires.

Although none of these recent fires occurred in the United States, it is imperative that managers learn from these incidents and be able to provide increased safety measures to keep patients and staff safe not only during emergency responses but also in day-to-day operations. While many factors influence the severity of a fire event and increased risk of fire due to high oxygen concentrations is anticipated more in operating rooms, the increased use of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients is a specific risk that needs to be evaluated to assure that proper precautions are implemented to reduce the risk appropriately.

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