Electrical Safety in Healthcare Facilities: Practical Applications

March 8, 2017 | Evaluations & Guidance


Ensuring electrical safety is a key responsibility of healthcare technology management personnel. ECRI Institute regularly provides guidance to members who ask us how best to manage the challenges of protecting patients and staff from electrical hazards. Here's some practical advice on common topics that have arisen in our discussions. We answer questions related to how leakage current limits are established and how they should be applied in special cases; how double-insulated devices should be handled; how the various types of electrical isolation principles used in hospitals differ; what GFCIs are; and more. .

The term leakage current refers to currents, not intended to be applied to the patient, that flow from exposed conductive portions of a device to ground (earth). These currents normally flow harmlessly through the power cord grounding conductor. However, if there is a break in the grounding path or some other failure (the term fault is used in standards), these currents can flow through a person in contact with the device, possibly causing injury. Leakage currents may flow from the chassis or enclosure of a device, from patient probes and electrodes to ground, or from a part of a device through the patient or operator to another part of the device (for example, from an electrode, through the patient, and to a probe).

To help protect patients and staff, standards organizations have established leakage current limits for electrically powered equipment used in the healthcare environment. These limits are designed to ensure that leakage current from such devices will not harm individuals who...

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