Keep hospital occupants safe during construction

To help ensure adequate indoor environmental quality during a renovation or construction project in a hospital, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati recommends the following steps:

1. Perform appropriate initial planning, including identifying key responsible personnel, developing a construction and renovation impact statement, and developing a budget.

2. Develop guidelines for bid specifications, including specific controls needed, requiring the general contractor to identify an indoor air quality representative, and specifying construction and renovation conditions that could require emergency response (such as situations that could require evacuation of personnel and patients).

3. Develop guidelines for controls, such as not scheduling construction during working hours, if possible, and isolating work areas from occupied areas.

4. Protect ventilation systems and avoid ventilation system contamination from work areas.

5. Develop guidelines for good work practices that do not generate large amounts of dust or organic vapors, clean up appropriately and thoroughly, and remove construction materials in a way that does not affect occupied areas.

6. Develop guidelines to implement project specifications. Ensure that the general contractor designee is trained, hold regular meetings between the contractor and the hospital, and have a hospital designee monitor construction activities and pressurization of occupied work areas, including taking airborne samples if needed.

7. Establish effective communication during the planning process and maintain it throughout the project. Ensure that staff who are responsible for areas affected by the project have input into the bid specifications. Involve any employees who will have to be moved or cope with areas under construction. During the process of the project, keep everybody informed of progress.

8. The work area has to be "commissioned," meaning making sure the job was done right and that nothing was left behind that would adversely affect air quality before anyone is moved back in. Ventilate the work area with 100% outdoor air for a few days before anyone is moved back in. If necessary, monitor for a short period of time after people move back in to determine that no contaminants are being released and that everything is working properly.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati. Unpublished.