If you have a car and live in an area where snow is a winter fact, you likely have winter tires; and with spring arriving, you’ve likely been to your mechanic to have your winter tires swapped out for your summer tires. You may also have timed the tire change with a LOF (Lube-Oil-Filter) and maybe changed out your windshield wipers. We understand that when we drive a car we need to do more than just fill it up with gas. Many of us are also probably pretty good at our own preventative maintenance plan for our health and well-being with annual physicals, eye checkups, working out, eating and sleeping right and if you are like me, your preventative maintenance plan also includes hair appointments, manicures and pedicures!
I would hazard a guess that most of us recognize that virtually any piece of equipment we use, in order to be effective at our jobs, also needs preventative maintenance. We know that with patient care equipment or other medical equipment this is an important aspect of protecting the lives of our patients. How many of you consider the dilution systems we use to dilute concentrated surface disinfectants or the associated test strips used to validate the dilution (assuming your facility uses test strips)? The unfortunate truth is that while we now acknowledge that compliance in cleaning and achieving the contact time as indicated on the label in order to ensure disinfection occurs are important, we do not stop to think of other factors that may impact the effectiveness of our chosen disinfectant.
The one area that we often overlook is the preventative maintenance required to ensure the dilution systems that we rely on to properly dilute the disinfectants are working properly. Over the course of my career in Healthcare, it never ceases to amaze me that many facilities still fail to consider this. While I will not name facilities I can say that I have been in more than my fair share of facilities helping brainstorm why a disinfectant seems to be failing to support the infection control program. When I ask when the last time the dilution system was serviced and / or validation had been done to ensure it was diluting properly I often get blank stares….
The importance of preventative maintenance on dilution systems is not just to ensure that the product dilutes at the correct concentration to kill the pathogens we’re concerned with, but to also ensure that it is diluting correctly so that the product is safe to handle. Case in point is a call recently received from a facility who realized the product they were using seemed foamier than normal and a few concerns with skin irritation had been noted. When looking at the dilution system they found there was no tip on the syphoning tube meaning more product than needed was being used. When asked about the use of test strips the answer was that the strips were not changing colour. When asked about the expiry date on the test strips it was determined they have long since expired…
The long and short is that disinfectants must be used in the dilution specified on the product label as indicated by the manufacturer. The importance of this is not just for optimal decontamination, but also for optimal occupational health and safety of the workers using the disinfectants and the patients who may come in contact with the disinfectant. I hope you’ll go check to find out what your preventative maintenance plan for your dilution systems is – and while you’re at it be sure to check and confirm the test strips have not expired!