The Importance of Comprehensive Infection Control Risk Assessments
An Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) is an essential step in limiting the acquisition and transmission of infections in a healthcare environment. According to The Joint Commission, an ICRA needs to be conducted when significant changes in the environment, community or patient population occur.
Demolition and construction activities are a prime concern for infection control because these activities make is easy for airborne mold and bacteria-laden dust to travel throughout the healthcare facility. Additionally, construction can compromise utility systems that usually help control the healthcare environment.
Controlling infections requires a comprehensive approach that combines Infection Prevention with Engineering and Nursing. An ICRA identifies the greatest risks and determines how these three disciplines can collaborate to control infections in a specific healthcare setting.
Before construction, renovation or demolition activities begin, there are six risk elements that should be assessed as part of the Pre-construction Risk Assessment (PRA). These elements include air quality, infection control, utility systems, noise, vibration and other hazards. The PRA is an essential part of the ICRA because interference with any of these six elements can increase the risk for infectious bacteria to spread.
Since projects in many healthcare facilities have several different stages that may include demolition activities, new construction, painting, and installation of carpet and appliances, it is important to note that each of these stages may present different risks to patients. A new ICRA should be conducted for each phase of the project to assess the risks that may have developed or been eliminated. This will help determine which control measures need to be added and/or eliminated. Additionally, conducting an ICRA for each phase the construction work is vital for proper compliance documentation.
An ICRA is an essential step in protecting patients from infection, and is the only way to obtain documentation that your healthcare organization is taking the necessary steps for compliance.