Physician Practice

What causes clinic fires?

Medical Environment Update, January 1, 2018

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Hazards posed by batteries and alcohol preps prompt a review of fire safety issues in clinics

Newly issued advisories about fire hazards in healthcare facilities by safety advocacy groups are placing new emphasis onto the importance of preventing fires in clinics.

Alcohol preps

Most surgeries take place in hospitals, but with outpatient procedures becoming more commonplace, alcohol preps are seeing wider use in medical clinics. However, a study published in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that alcohol-based preps are alarmingly easy to ignite, even when dry.

While the preps caused only about 4% of OR fires, researchers found that fires occurred in 10% (six of 60) of electrosurgical test cases—even when they let the skin preps dry for three minutes and didn’t allow them to pool.

 “Alcohol-based skin preparations fuel operating room fires in common clinical scenarios,” according to the study’s authors. “Surgeons can decrease the risk of an operating room fire by using non-alcohol-based skin preparations or avoiding pooling of the preparation solution.”

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