Tentatively OK’d: Hand gel dispensers in hallways

The Quincy, MA-based National Fire Protection Association has approved a tentative interim amendment to the 2000 and 2003 Life Safety Code to allow health care facilities to install alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers in corridors and other public areas.

The tentative interim amendment allows the installation of dispensers in corridors with the following criteria:

  • The corridor width is 6 feet or greater, and dispensers are installed at least 4 feet apart.
  • The maximum individual dispenser fluid capacity is 1.2 L for dispensers in rooms, corridors, and areas open to corridors, and 2 L for dispensers in suites of rooms.
  • The dispensers are not installed over or directly adjacent to electrical outlets and switches.
  • In locations with carpeted floors, dispensers installed directly over carpeted surfaces are permitted only in sprinklered smoke compartments.
  • Each smoke compartment may contain a maximum aggregate of 10 gallons of alcohol-based hand rub solution in dispensers and a maximum of 5 gallons in storage.

This tentative interim amendment is not the final step. An International Code Council (ICC) task force will provide recommendations on alcohol-based hand rubs. The ICC publishes the International Fire Code and the companion International Building Code, which are used by many state and local fire agencies. If the codes are amended, this action will pave the way for state agencies also to permit dispensers in corridors and will ensure national, state, and local fire agencies are aligned regarding alcohol hand rubs. Contact your local and state fire safety professionals before making any change.

In October 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to promote the use of hand sanitizers in health care settings. Among the recommendations was one to make an alcohol-based hand rub available at the entrance to the patient’s room or at the bedside, in other convenient locations, and in individual pocket-sized containers to be carried by health care workers.

Providers have been reluctant to expand the use of alcohol-based hand-rub sanitizers because of Medicare inspections. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) essentially bars the use of hand sanitizers outside hospital rooms. However, a study of 840 facilities in the August 2003 issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found no fires attributable to hand sanitizers.