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Ask the expert: Privacy curtain cleaning

Q: What’s the OSHA requirement for laundering privacy or cubicle curtains in an ambulatory care setting?

A: OSHA does not have a specific requirement for laundering privacy or cubicle curtains, only that you include the frequency on your housekeeping schedule.

The CDC Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities [1] document doesn’t help much, as it refers to window curtains and merely says: “Clean walls, blinds, and window curtains in patient-care areas when they are visibly dusty or soiled.”

For a more authoritative answer, we asked Steve MacArthur, safety consultant for The Greeley Company [2], and occasional blogger for OSHA Healthcare Advisor [3] and more frequently for his own Mac’s Safety Space [4].

Here is what he had to say on the subject:

I don’t know that you’re going to find very much in the way of guidance because the answer to the question of “how often would one change the cubicle curtains” is “it depends.”

There are a ton of variables, but let’s get the hard and fast stuff out of the way:

Soiled cubicle curtain – change it

Precaution patient discharged – change it (there are probably instances in which changing is not necessary, but it’s not a good practice to have front line environment services staff making the call on whether it should be changed or not). These are probably the most dire circumstances you’d encounter in the ambulatory setting.

The next tier is much grayer; for instance, if a patient is there (which wouldn’t happen in ambulatory, but I just want to use the example) for a month or more, it’s probably a good idea to think about changing.

Beyond that, you can certainly look at the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning frequencies; some facilities do them annually, some semi-annually, some quarterly.

Some facilities rent the cubicles and as a function of that rental, the vendor supplies the labor for changing them out. In situations where you don’t have a complete set to change out, the change is done in phases.

Also, some facilities  will change them out when a room is empty as a function of being able to access the space.

Of course, then there are the issues of wear and tear—cubicle curtains can get beat up pretty quickly, which also indicates time to change ‘em out.

Do you have different policies for changing privacy/cubicle curtains in your healthcare facility? Let us know in the comment section below.