Reminder: Heating Units Can Pose Risks to Residents
Posted on December 23, 2021 by Jonathan Lips
With winter upon us, it's an excellent time to consider the risks that heating units can potentially create for residents in nursing homes and assisted living settings.
In recent years there have been reports of residents sustaining burns to a foot, hand, arm, elbow, wrist or forehead, while in beds positioned close to a baseboard or other heating unit. This may occur if a resident falls from a bed or hangs an arm or leg over the side. In addition to the risk of injuries to residents, survey deficiencies have resulted from these types of events.
The Minnesota Department of Health’s Engineering Services Section recently provided the following guidance to LeadingAge Minnesota:
- All touchable room heating units (radiators) surfaces should not exceed 159 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Decorative fireplaces should not have touchable surfaces that exceed 135 degrees Fahrenheit. In cases where touchable surfaces exceeded that temperature, successful mitigation implemented by one provider was to install a full screen around 9" from the hot surfaces. That would keep the screen at 135 degrees or below.
Here are a few ideas for facilities to consider, from both a safety and compliance standpoint:
- Evaluate room arrangement, including bed positioning, and conduct observational audits periodically.
- The appropriate distance between a bed and a heating unit may vary with the temperature of the heating unit and specific resident conditions that may present increased risks (inability to avoid contact with a heating unit or to recognize and respond when contact occurs).
- Consider creating aids for staff, such as a mark on a wall or the floor, to assist with maintaining the bed’s position.
- Inspect heating units to confirm they are in good condition. For example, if a heater cover/protective shielding is installed, is it secure and in good repair?
- Monitor and document temperatures of heating units and decorative fireplaces with a surface temperature thermometer to ensure they are not excessively hot.
Evaluating the chances of exposure and mitigating potential risks will benefit all during the winter months ahead.
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