Sanitizing Hands

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 21, 2004

Major health-care organizations and agencies-most notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-have won their campaign to allow alcohol-based hand sanitizers in hospital corridors and other public spaces. The CDC believes this could lead to an enormous reduction in deaths attributed to hospital-acquired infections.

The biggest obstacle to wider use of these alcohol-based hand-rub sanitizers has been hospital administrators’ concerns about Medicare inspections. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has prohibited the use of hand sanitizers based on its interpretation of NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code), which regulates the placement of chemical devices where they might interfere with egress from the building.

A 2003 study of 840 facilities discredited the notion that alcohol-based hand sanitizers had ever played a role in hospital fires. And growing scientific and medical evidence has overwhelmingly pointed to the benefits of hand cleaners in fighting infection.

In April, the NFPA Standards Council approved the tentative interim amendment (TIA) and cleared the way for hospitals to place alcohol-based hand-rub sanitizers in hallways, waiting rooms and other conspicuous places.