While there have been many challenges with oxygen systems over the past year or so, we have learned many lessons that we can take forward to ensure we are prepared for future infectious diseases that impact oxygen demand. Some measures that have been beneficial include:

  • Visually inspecting the system to check for leaks and making sure all valves are functioning properly to eliminate waste. A great place to start this inspection is at connections, where many leaks can occur.
  • Monitoring and inspecting pressure regulators in the oxygen system because many are fixed-flow capacity. When this flow is exceeded for increased demand, the pressure may not remain at desired levels, potentially causing further pressure drops in the system. 
  • Visually inspecting the ambient air vaporizers for ice accumulation. While a small amount of ice accumulation near the inlet is typical, ice may further accumulate on the vaporizer fins when flows exceed the design rates significantly. This results in less surface area for heat exchange and reduces the oxygen temperature to a point where frost and condensation may form, posing risks for oxygen delivery.
  • Monitoring tank storage compliance throughout the facility. While our focus is often on the bulk oxygen system, it is likely that additional tanks also may be utilized, necessitating discussions with respiratory therapy, nursing and environment of care staff. This will ensure that the facility is compliant with the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, requirements.
  • Monitoring use throughout the bulk oxygen system and adjusting for any peaks. Work with your supplier to ensure that there are no issues with supply to the area.
  • Checking your required emergency oxygen supply connections to ensure they are easily accessible in case a temporary source may be required for the system.

Many of these items will also help with everyday compliance and efficiencies for the system. The 2012 edition of NFPA 99; the 2010 edition of NFPA 55, Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code; and the American Society for Health Care Engineering’s “Medical Gas Cylinder and Bulk Tank Storage” monograph (tinyurl.com/5a8x5md4) all provide great information.