IFHE Digest 2019: Important information about operating rooms and their electrical safety

The new IFHE Digest 2019 has been published by The International Federation IFHE_Digest_2019
of Hospital Engineering (IFHE). Our Development Manager Petri Pelkonen and Managing Director Timo Ohtonen have wrote an article: Important information about operating rooms and their electrical safety.

With this article, Mr. Ohtonen and Mr. Pelkonen wanted to point out the importance of insulation monitoring in saving lives and protecting valuable equipment in medical G2 premises. Actually Mr. Ohtonen wrote his first article about electrical safety in IFHE Digest in 2017. The article aroused much international interest towards electrical safety and insulation monitoring technology. He was surprised how little people knew about insulation monitoring in operating rooms.   

Why the insulation monitoring is so important?
The leakage of electrical current can cause a fatal electric shock without any visible signs. It is difficult to prove it as a cause of death. Finnish authorities and hospital engineers are well aware of this risk. Finland has been a pioneer in the electrical safety of operating rooms. No operation will be performed in Finnish operating rooms if insulation monitoring is not in use. An insulation monitoring system has been mandatory in all operating rooms in Finland since 1980s.

The insulation level monitoring system functions like this:

1. The electric power network of the operating room is separated from electrical grid with a medical isolation transformer.

2. The insulation level monitoring system monitors all the electrical devices connected behind this transformer.

3. The equipment indicates the faults and problems before dangerous situations arise.

A residual-current device that switches the electricity off does not give a warning – insulation level monitoring is therefore needed
Electrical safety requirements set for operating rooms are observed in Finland. The insulation level monitoring system controls each socket and device. As soon as a problem occurs, the system gives an alarm before a dangerous situation arises.  

In many countries, the situation is different.  Operating rooms may only have a residual-current device that switches the electricity off when a device breaks down. That is not enough.

Electrical damages in operating rooms are an invisible danger that is not generally known. The purchase of equipment monitoring electrical safety would only constitute a small part of the overall costs of an operating room. Insulation level monitoring equipment may be operable for as long as 30 years. It may also be possible to install new generation equipment on top of an old system. It is noteworthy that the proactive monitoring system decreases technical work and ensures that operations are not interrupted. This brings significant cost savings.  

Standards regulate electrical installations in medical facilities
The European and national standards regulate electrical installations and the operation of devices in medical facilities. Operating rooms are classified as G2 medical facilities. In Europe, these facilities require a specific IT system as well as monitoring equipment for the insulation space related to the IT system.  

Safety brings savings
Besides safety, it all comes down to costs to a large extent. When problems are detected at an early stage, hazardous situations during operations can be prevented. This ensures that the operating room and equipment are efficiently deployed all the time and unnecessary downtime can be avoided. The personnel work more productively and the service life of surgical equipment is extended. This creates major cost savings. 

Read the whole article in IFHE Digest 2019.

IFHE Digest -publication
IFHE Digest -publication offers views from hospital and healthcare sector written by engineers, architects and facility managers all over the world. IFHE Digest is published every year by The International Federation of Hospital Engineering.

Read also:
The electrical safety of operating rooms (author Timo Ohtonen):  IFHE Digest 2017.

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