Healthcare EHS Services
Without properly-designed, consistent protocols and well-trained staff, hospitals and other healthcare facilities may face significant environmental health risks over time. These risks can be particularly high when facilities are being updated, renovated, expanded, or repaired by construction teams. Fortunately, Higgins’ experienced EHS consultants are available to help identify and manage risks, providing effective solutions that follow guidelines set forth by the CDC, TJC, FGI, OSHA, EPA, ANSI/ASHRAE, and other regulatory organizations.
COVID-19 Hospital Environmental Health & Safety Consulting
The CDC has issued guidelines to assist healthcare professionals with health and safety plans to mitigate the transmission of fungal, bacterial, and viral pathogens, including COVID-19. However, these guidelines can be challenging to implement correctly. Higgins’ industrial hygienists can help healthcare clients reduce exposures for patients and healthcare workers.
Indoor Air Quality for Healthcare Facilities
It's imperative that the air quality in hospitals and other healthcare facilities be properly monitored and maintained to avoid environmental health risks to both clients and staff. This is especially important in ORs, intensive care units, oncology units, and other facilities that treat immune compromised patients. If you are concerned that your facility and/or air handling system may be susceptible to risk – such as the air quality risks imposed by construction crews working inside your facility – contact us to conduct a detailed on-site evaluation.
Industrial Hygiene & Environmental Health Assessments
Industrial hygiene is dedicated to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, communication, and control of environmental stressors in or arising from the workplace that may result in injury, illness, impairment, or affect the wellbeing of workers and members of the community. These stressors can be categorized into five groups: 1) biological, 2) chemical, 3) physical, 4) ergonomic and 5) psychosocial stressors. Much like other industries, healthcare staff and clients are susceptible to environmental stressors and health risks. However, healthcare facilities also pose a unique set of challenges.
Microbiological Water, Air, & Surface Testing
The CDC states that “scheduled microbiologic monitoring for legionellae remains controversial because the presence of legionellae is not necessarily evidence of a potential for causing disease." The CDC recommends aggressive disinfection measures for cleaning devices known to transmit legionellae, but does not recommend regularly scheduled microbiologic assays for the bacteria. However, the CDC does state that “scheduled monitoring of potable water within a hospital might be considered in certain settings where persons are highly susceptible to illness and mortality from legionella infection.”
HVAC System Infection Control Sampling
The CDC states that HVAC air handling systems in healthcare facilities are designed to maintain the indoor air temperature and humidity at comfortable levels for staff, patients, and visitors; control odors; remove contaminated air; facilitate air-handling requirements to protect susceptible staff and patients from airborne healthcare-associated pathogens; and minimize the risk for transmission of airborne pathogens from infected patients. Decreased performance of these systems, filter inefficiencies, improper installation, and poor maintenance can contribute to the spread of healthcare–associated airborne infections.
Environmental Infection Control During Construction
The CDC published the Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities in 2003, which outlines recommendations for environmental infection control (EIC) during demolition and construction. Special attention should be given to engineering and EIC concerns during construction, demolition, renovation, and repair of healthcare facilities. The use of an infection control risk assessment (ICRA) protocol is also strongly supported before the start of these or any other activities expected to generate dust or water aerosols.
Pharmaceutical USP Controlled Environmental Testing
USP Chapter 797 “Pharmaceutical Compounding-Sterile Preparations” became the first official, enforceable requirement for the compounding of sterile preparations in 2004. The goal of USP 797 is to protect clients from harm resulting from microbial contamination or medication errors in compounded sterile preparations. As of 2008, an official revision of USP Chapter 797 now dictates that compounding be performed under ISO 5 (Class 100) conditions. Compliance with this chapter can be a challenging requirement to meet for some facilities. Additionally, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations is enforcing USP Chapter 797 within their standards. For high-risk compounding, the Joint Commission may require stricter compliance to this chapter than the state Board of Pharmacy in some areas.
Hospital OR Environmental Infection Control Testing
Surgical-site infection is one of the leading complications of surgical procedures. The use of ultra-clean air in operating rooms (ORs) has been shown to reduce surgical infection rates significantly, especially during implant surgery. Under normal circumstances, the main source of airborne microbial contaminants is microscopic skin fragments given off by the patient and staff members within the OR theater. Air testing of operating rooms should be performed after any substantial renovations or modifications have been made that may have affected airflow patterns, or to confirm the effectiveness of sterile cleaning of the air handling systems.
Sewage and Water Intrusion Environmental Health Testing
Sewage contamination is a serious threat to human health. Gastrointestinal illnesses, infections, and other adverse health effects can result from the ingestion or inhalation of these materials. Sewage or “black water” intrusion events can occur when septic lines back up, become damaged, or become flooded during periods of heavy rainfall. Extensive health risks and damage to building materials can occur if appropriate action is not taken in a timely manner. A quick response may prevent extensive permeation and contamination of absorbent materials, such as wood, drywall, paper, and other construction materials. Penetration of sewage or black water can potentially lead to the growth of disease- and infection-causing microorganisms or pathogens. For these reasons it is imperative to create a plan of action quickly.
Additional EHS consulting services include:
EPA controlled environment testing (LAFW, CAIs, PE, cleanrooms, operating rooms, ante-rooms)
Environmental dust and discrete particulates sampling (during construction and demolition)
Bioaerosols (culturable & non-culturable) sampling
8-panel array allergens sampling
Aldehydes, heavy metals, welding fumes, and other VOC air sampling
HVAC / air handling unit / fan coil / maintenance protocol infection control reviews
NO2, SO2, airborne lead testing, nitrous oxide, halogenated agents testing
Medical gases ambient air sampling
Testing for radon, welding / brazing fumes, diesel exhaust, asphalt air emissions
Surface microbial contamination sampling (via: ATP, RODAC, tape lifts, swabs, etc.)
Pesticides and semi-volatile organics air sampling