August 26, 2010 | | Comments 2
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Determining what is considered life safety sustaining equipment

Q: I was wondering if you had a list of what should be and/or could be considered life safety sustaining equipment (i.e. ventilators/cardiac defibrillators). Is this specifically described by each organization or are there certain pieces of equipment that automatically fall into this category?

A: This is a very subjective undertaking and, consequently, brings with it a great deal of variability. The “defining” characteristic of a life support piece of medical equipment is that if it fails, it could have a direct impact on someone’s life. Ventilators and defibrillators are likely candidates, as are anesthesia machines, dialysis machines, certain infant monitoring equipment (for instance, apnea monitors), electrosurgical devices, etc. While these could loosely be described as frequent flyers on the life support list, sometime the utilization of the devices or the types of procedures they’re being used in can alter the final determination, which is (almost) completely up to the organization.

That said, there is one instance, defibrillators, that The Joint Commission has gone on the record as considering the device as being life support in nature.

The FAQ may provide some indication of what else could be considered life support (and defibrillators are so “obvious” that I really don’t think they went too far out on a limb to identify them as such), by establishing the expectation of the risk assessment.

Entry Information

Filed Under: Environment of careLife Safety Code

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. Let’s not confuse Life Safety (Fire Safety) with Life Support (Equipment used to keep or support patients ability to stay alive.

  2. Lets take this one step further, my plant engineer asked me for standards on our suction and medical air systems this morning.
    Since we are a CAH,I told the engineer to look up her manuals that came with the equipment and P&P what the manuals told her to do for PM’s.

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