The healthcare industry needs to improve its understanding of safety issues such as explosions and fires caused by high-capacity batteries used in mobile powered equipment carts.

In a public setting like that of a hospital, these problems can cause large-scale damage to lives and property. The FDA has warned healthcare providers about incidents linked to fires, explosions, overheating of equipment, or smoking that have been caused by battery-powered carts and have culminated in hospital evacuations.

Background

Mobile powered equipment carts include barcode scanners, patient monitoring, crash carts, carts that power and carry medical devices for point of care, and medication dispensing carts. These carts are typically equipped with high capacity lead acid or lithium batteries which can power computer workstations and medical devices for several hours.

Mobile Medical Cart

Battery powered mobile carts are employed due to their practicality, utility, and convenience. However, these high capacity batteries can result in hazards like those mentioned above. Moreover, such fires are more difficult to extinguish. In many instances, firefighters have had to bury these mobile powered equipment carts to put out the flames.

Safety Tips to Reduce Hazardous Incidents

The FDA has set out guidelines for healthcare practitioners which can help them in decreasing incidents of fire outbreaks and prevent injury to visitors, patients, and staff.

Preventative Maintenance of Mobile Powered Equipment Carts

Healthcare practitioners can take a number of steps to prevent fires from occurring. They should regularly inspect batteries for any signs of damage, wear and tear, including cracks, swelling, and bulging. They should also check carts and battery chargers for any components that may have overheated.

The next step should be to notify the supplier about the damaged batteries and instantly stop the usage of batteries which do not charge properly. Battery replacements should be carried out at regular intervals in line with the supplier’s recommendations.

Another method to prevent a fire outbreak is to keep the area around mobile carts, and battery chargers vacuumed to remove any lint or dust. Explosive and flammable substances should be kept far away from these carts and the carts, themselves, should be placed in highly visible locations away from patients.

Lastly, hospitals should always ask their supplier for preventative maintenance documentation which they can then use. If the manufacturer does not provide proper documentation, it is advisable to seek another supplier. It is also recommended to provide regular training to staff and encourage them to practice safe battery management techniques.

Mobile Medical Cart Batteries

General Recommendations if Fire Occurs

Despite following the safety guidelines, mishaps can occur, and the outbreak of fires is possible. Under unfortunate circumstances, if a mobile powered equipment cart catches fire while in use or charging, immediately unplug the charger or switch off the power only if it is safe to do so. However, do not touch the battery under any circumstances.

Then remove the mobile cart, while using extreme care and caution, from areas with an influx of patients and visitors. Lastly, report the incident to the fire station or another rescue service, in accordance with the hospital protocol and guidelines.

Summary

The outbreak of fires from mobile powered equipment carts is a grave issue. Although there have been no incidents of patient deaths or severe injuries, this does not undermine the importance of implementing safe practices.

All hospitals and healthcare providers should take a proactive approach in dealing with such equipment and should collaborate with their suppliers to provide a safe environment for staff, patients, and visitors alike.