Safety from Fires and Explosions in Hospital OperatingRooms
Originally published August 1962

P. J. Sereda

Amid the complexities of hospital design and construction the hazards of fire and explosion in operating rooms may too easily be treated as minor details. These hazards, however, must not be ignored. The Division of Building Research became interested in them in 1953 after receiving an inquiry from a firm of architects about the durability of static conductive flooring for operating rooms.
This article is written primarily for the use of architects and engineers, but hospital administrators also should be aware of the special nature of the equipment and facilities that can be provided. Full advantage of these facilities can be realized only if the operating room staff institute certain procedures and take certain precautions to avoid the sources of ignition of anaesthetic gases.
It may seem strange that in an activity such as surgery, which in itself has great risks attached, there is concern with fires and explosions of anaesthetic gases such as ether cyclopropane and ethylene in combination with oxygen; these accidents occur at a statistical frequency of one in 80,000 to 100,000 anaesthesias that make use of flammable gases. Statistics, however, do not always reveal a true picture of the importance of some hazards. An accident such as an explosion in the operating room has a great psychological impact upon both the operating room staff and the public at large, the potential patients, not to speak of the liability of the physician and the hospital if such an accident is judged as negligence. The presence of a potential hazard may also add unnecessary stress to personnel already under great pressure and thus hinder their efficiency.

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