December 09, 2009 | | Comments 1
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Solid bottoms on supply carts? Judge it with a risk assessment

I was chatting with a safety professional who asked about wire carts needing a solid bottom shelf.

This is one of those best practice solutions that is derived from local (and sometimes state) public health codes. Where this comes up during Joint Commission surveys is infection control standard IC.02.02.01, EP 4, which calls for the hospital to implement infection prevention steps when storing medical equipment, devices, and supplies.

Because The Joint Commission would consider solid-bottom shelves the equivalent to a best practice, if it were to come up during survey, the debate would likely hinge on whether a risk assessment had been conducted.

If the assessment was done and the results support the decision to forego the solid bottom shelves, then “that would be that.” Maybe you’d have to clarify a citation if the surveyors were adamant enough that they thought you’d made an inappropriate decision.

In the absence of the risk assessment, this is would be much more challenging to clarify, however.

When conducting the risk assessment, the key things to look at are:

  • How far off the floor is the bottom shelf?
  • Are items stored on the bottom shelf appropriately protected from dust and mop splash? You don’t want a mess of damp cardboard, which becomes a breeding ground.

Here’s an alternative: Everything on the bottom shelves could be stored in bins, which act as a solid bottom for the shelf.

Much like securing cabinets under sinks, painting red lines at 18 inches from the ceiling in storerooms, etc., sometimes the path of least resistance is the quickest way to make a problem go away.


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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 stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. In this day and age of most answers being a risk assessment, is there a library or list of them that someone maintains? A common template would be nice?

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