As hospitals become more complex and additional equipment is being added to the inventory, the need for additional electrical outlets becomes a concern. Hospitals are typically designed with a certain number of electrical outlets installed. These are typically set by code regulations. When all the electrical outlets are full, hospitals must seek other mechanisms. The most common one is a power strip. However, you can’t just choose any kind of power strip. It can be a little complicated when it comes to power strips. Hospitals will choose a power strip and then it is misapplied. This will then lead to findings from regulatory agencies and sometimes even patient injuries.
There are multiple different regulations that provide guidance and requirements on the use of power strips. These include, NFPA 70 – National Electric Code, NFPA 99 – Healthcare Facilities Code, testing laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), and OSHA. Organizations must follow the regulations from these different codes and then come up with the appropriate type to be used. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all type of power strip.
Power strips are allowed to be used in a patient care vicinity to power rack-, table-, pedestal-, or cart mounted patient care-related electrical equipment assemblies. A patient care vicinity is defined as a space, within a location intended for the examination and treatment of patients, extending 6 feet beyond the normal location of the bed, chair, table, treadmill, or other device that supports the patient during examination and treatment and extending vertically to 7 feet 6 inches above the floor.
To use a power strip in the patient care vicinity they must meet the following requirements:
- Must be permanently attached (not removable without a tool) to the equipment assembly.
- The sum of the ampacity of all appliances that are connected to the power strip shall not exceed 75 percent of the ampacity of the power strip.
- The electrical and mechanical integrity of the assembly is regularly verified and documented through an ongoing maintenance program.
- Once it has been identified as to what devices will be plugged into the power strip, means are employed to ensure that additional devices cannot be attached to the power strip.
- Power strips are not permitted to be used in a patient care vicinity to power non-patient care-related electrical equipment (e.g., personal electronics).
- Power strips are permitted to be used outside of the patient care vicinity for both patient care-related electrical equipment and non-patient care-related electrical equipment.
- Power strips providing power to patient care-related electrical equipment must be listed as UL 1363A or UL 60601-1.
- Power strips providing power to non-patient care-related electrical equipment must be listed as UL 1363.
Following these requirements will help organizations in putting together a policy and procedure on the management of power strips.