Infection Control during Construction

August 6, 2014 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


The ICRA process has become a key focus of healthcare, construction, and governmental organizations. Best understood as a strategic plan, the ICRA is meant to protect residents, personnel, and visitors from infection during construction, demolition, renovation, and plant maintenance. An ICRA begins at project conception, lasts until its completion, and identifies, assesses, and provides the contingencies appropriate for the following areas of concern (FGI):

The underlying reason for conducting an ICRA is to prevent an exposure event, which involves contact between a concentration of potentially infectious microorganisms, especially from an unidentified, unsuspected reservoir and an at-risk resident population. The key factors are the presence of at-risk residents and opportunistic pathogens and the potential for construction activities to increase contact between those two groups unless interventions are planned. The amount of time that a construction project takes is important, but it is not the most decisive factor influencing exposure. Major, long-term projects may increase the probability that exposure will occur when construction workers unexpectedly disturb potential sources of contamination (e.g., dust, corroded water pipes). However, bursts of fungal spores can be released from newly disturbed dust, in even a very short time, exposing residents to potential pathogens if conditions are right.

Infection prevention activities should begin well before construction activities start, and the ICRA team should actively look for areas where construction might encounter a concentration of potentially infectious microorganisms. Because this survey will require a broad knowledge of the types of locations where pathogens are likely to grow and of the indications of their presence, the ICRA team must include individuals from a range of backgrounds; what seems like innocuous rust to an engineer may signal to an infection control practitioner the presence of a moist environment above the tiles ideal for microbial or fungal colonization. As necessary, the team should determine if areas suspected of harboring such microorganisms need cleaning or containment before construction or renovation activities are begun.

Conducting an ICRA is already a regulatory and accreditation requirement for many facilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends that facilities conduct an ICRA (Sehulster and Chinn), and more than 40 states and some local healthcare licensing agencies have adopted FGI standards requiring a preconstruction ICRA into their own rules (Greene). A brief description of these guidelines is available as follows, and additional information can be found in Resource List.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee issued the Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities, which discusses ways in which facilities can protect residents from exposure to environmental elements that may lead to infections, including Aspergillus and Legionella. One of the recommendations is to perform an ICRA before beginning construction as a way to "define the scope...

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