Ask The Expert

The Importance of Electrical Safety Testing

An electrical safety test for medical equipment helps prevent the hazards of using defective or improperly grounded equipment. Performing an electrical safety test is key for ensuring patient and staff safety.

Wed Jul 18 2018By ATWright

We spoke with Jack Barrett, National Business Development Manager, at Rigel Medical on the importance of electrical safety testing in this week's Ask the Expert article. Do you have a question about electrical safety testing? Use the contact form at the bottom of this article to ask Jack a question.

Why is an electrical safety test for medical equipment important?

There are hundred's if not thousands of documented cases of patients and/or hospital personnel subjected to electrical shock from damaged medical devices.  Periodic electrical safety testing identifies those medical products needing repair and therefore ensures patient and operator safety.

Why do we need electrical safety testing?

The objective is to test and confirm the electrical equipment is safe for use in a medical healthcare environment.   In the very basic explanation, to ensure that if a patient or operator comes in contact with a medical device, there is not the potential for electrical current to pass through their body to ground.  Current as low as 100µA, and lower for critical patients, can cause microshock leading to ventricular fibrillation and potentially death.

When is safety testing required?

Medical products are first tested, and often the moat stringent testing, during the manufacturing process.  Once the medical device arrives at the hospital or healthcare facility, it undergoes electrical safety testing before being placed in service.  After that, always after repair and per the established process of the facility.

How often should tests be performed?

The manufacturers guidelines provide their recommended frequency for testing.  Healthcare facilities often have their own established processes based on their knowledge and history of the  medical device.  Supplementing and providing guidance to the facilities process are established guidelines such as NFPA 99 which is the most common "field" standard used within the United States.

What safety tips should one follow when performing electrical safety tests?

Most importantly, avoiding contact, touching, the medical device when it is energized prior or during the electrical safety testing process.

Are other testing devices needed in conjunction with the electrical safety analyzer?

Many devices, infusion pumps, ESU generators, monitors, ventilators, defibrillators have performance test requirements as specified by the manufacturer.

What do I do with the test results once I have completed testing?

This is really controlled by the healthcare facility.  They have established processes which can range from the electrical safety test results are saved as part of the work order on one end to capturing pass/fail and date.  The determination is also often influenced by the equipment type as well.

What should one look for in an electrical safety analyzer?
As the price of an electrical safety analyzer reflects its capabilities and feature set, e.g., internal memory for data capture, interfacing to CMMS programs, both current state and future state, start with the process requirements of the healthcare facility.  That will determine the needed feature set of the analyzer and budgeting needs.

Is there anything else that I need to know about electrical safety testing?
Many service manuals have electrical safety testing occurring after performance testing.  An argument can be made that electrical safety testing should happen first.  Otherwise the technician (operator) could physically come in contact with the device with the possibility of electric shock resulting.

To learn more about Rigel Medical, click here.


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