September 30, 2009 | | Comments 4
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Risk assessments are the way to go with power strip use

As you might guess, I’m in favor of using the risk assessment process to look at the issue of power strip use in hospitals.

And I’d start with a determination of whether a power strip is the most appropriate strategy, with the recognition that once you start with the power strip as opposed to additional electrical outlets, you’ve increased the risk of someone plugging an item into the strip that they shouldn’t and maybe overloading the circuit (not a great risk, to be sure, but it is a degree riskier with the power strip).

You can also research provisions in NFPA 99, Healthcare Facilities, and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.

Much of this goes back to a mantra we use here at The Greeley Company: Do the right thing, say what you do, and do what you say.

If you adopt a process that meets that simple criteria, then you’ll probably be okay — but in the full knowledge that there’s always at least one person, AHJ or otherwise, who will disagree with what you’ve decided to do. Unfortunately, for better or ill, there’s less science in a lot of this stuff than I’d like (science tends to make things at least moderately organized).

Also, as a former housekeeping personage, I like to see power strips up off the floor, whether it’s hard surface or carpet. Power strips left on the floor make things significantly more difficult to keep clean (and that, as I think about it, is probably my biggest general beef with them).

Most of the hospitals we work with were designed before a lot of this technology existed. Think about all these network cabling setups that are cheek to jowl with electrical equipment, soiled utility rooms, etc.

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Filed Under: Environment of care


Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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  1. Power strips are not acceptable for any medical equipment unless they are provided by the manufacturer as a part of the assmebled system.


  2. There are several types of power strips, more appropriatly refered to as Relocatable Power Taps (RPT’s). There is now a desigated unit for patient care areas, these are UL listed as such and are refered to as Special Purpose Relocatable Power Taps, (SPRPT). Some also may incorporate a isolation transformer for more severe environmental patient areas, or “wet areas”, such as OR’s etc.
    This is a complex and rapidly changing area of subject. This will become a much more important EOC/Safety-Risk Management issue/topic in the very near future…..look it up!

  3. The power strip thing is once again rearing its ugly head. I am told we are not allowed to mount them to a wall (NFPA 400.8 cited as reference), contrary to your views. I sure hope we end up doing your way!

    I saw powerstrips come into being when the PC started invading the workplace (all those devices, albeit very low current draw, but with dedicated cords) We surely could not install receptacles to accomodate them. The answer was a power strip; good idea! Granted some have abused by daisy-chaining, or plugging a coffee pot, microwave, and refrigerator into one! Anyway it appears we must now purchase hospital grade units for all patient care areas (and make sure they lie on the floor!!). Say “hi” to Brad Keyes for me!

  4. ….And we have been cited in the past by OSHA, who said that they were for temporary use only (except when used with computers) and that they may NOT be “permanently mounted”. The specific instance was a strip that was held off the floor by a single screw attached to the plywood backing for our main telephone switch. Go figure.

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