Jonathan Flannery of ASHE led a debate-style session on infection prevention versus life safety.

Image courtesy of ASHE

The 2022 ASHE Annual Conference in Boston saw a first-ever formal debate regarding the impact that life safety requirements can have on infection prevention efforts and vice versa. While this was the first time that a debate style session was included at the ASHE Annual Conference, debating has been around for as long as opinions have been.

Debate is a method that includes formal discourse on a particular topic — this one being life safety versus infection prevention. This method was selected for the presentation to provide conflicting point of views with an educational purpose.

The concurrent session, A Debate on Safety — Life Safety vs. Infection Prevention, followed the general rules of debate, allowing attendees to hear the major issues in a “side-by-side” format. The session started off with opening statements from the participants: Michelle Harris-Williams, director of infection prevention at the University Maryland Medical Center; Richie Stever, vice president of real estate and property management at the University of Maryland Medical System; Joshua Brackett, system regulatory director of facilities operations at Banner Health; and Jonathan Hart, technical lead for fire protection engineering and a principal engineer for the National Fire Protection Association.

The first issue debated was the benefit of alcohol-based hand-rub (ABHR) for infection prevention versus the life safety concerns ABHR presents. This was a lively discussion surrounding the many benefits ABHR provides for hand hygiene in the reduction of health care-associated infections versus the risks involved in storage, usage and dispensing of ABHR.

Additional issues that were discussed during the session include:

  • The impact of isolation precautions, which potentially conflict with life safety requirements,
  • Infection Control Risk Assessment practices that conflict with life safety requirements,
  • The impact that inspection, testing and maintenance of life safety devices has on infection prevention practices.
  • The infection prevention concerns regarding temperature, humidity and pressure relationships and their impact that conflict with operational requirements.

To learn more about this very important issue and how to help facility management and infection prevention better work as a team, listen to the entire concurrent session when it becomes available on the Aug. 15 through the 2022 ASHE Annual Conference On Demand Session recordings.