In the February 2014 issue of The Joint Commissions TJC’s Perspectives’ Newsletter, TJC addressed an issue regarding the requirement for Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI) protection for ice machines, specific to medical/surgical units. According to this article ice machines on medical/surgical units which are not equipped with GFCI protection are in violation of the standards and can be cited. The article further states that in the first half of 2018, 45 hospitals out of 679 surveyed were cited under Standard EC.02.05.05 EP 8, but fails to identify how many times this was relative to ice machines vs. other items such as tubs, drinking fountains, sinks, etc. What is eminently clear from the article, is that TJC is requiring GFCI’s on ice and ice-water machines in patient care areas and they appear too be considering nourishment rooms and clean utility rooms as patient areas.
There are numerous troubling aspects about this article and TJC’s application of this standard including the following:
- The Standard cited was EC.02.05.05: Which requires, “The hospital inspects, test, and maintains utility systems. Even if this piece of equipment is elevated to the status of a Utility System (which it is not because The Joint Commissions own Glossary does not identify it as one of the types of utilities) it would still not fall under this standard because the standard is intended for inspection, testing, and maintenance, not installation. If anything is actually wrong in this situation, it would be related to improper installation of equipment.
- Of further concern regarding the appropriateness of this finding is the fact that TJC’s article indicates that it Falls under EP 8 of EC.02.05.05, which is specifically identified in the standards as relating to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems of which ice machines are clearly not a part.
- Additionally, the article indicates in the case of the hospital cited for the ice maker, that the ice maker was located on the medical/surgical unit. The article does not however indicate if the icemaker was in the patient room or an area accessible to patients. Most ice makers found in hospitals are located in nourishment rooms or clean utility rooms, and these are not areas patients normally have access to and in fact are frequently locked.
In the final analysis and after any discussion about what is appropriate, what is actually in the code, etc., the thing that actually matters is that this is what the surveyors are currently looking for. To that end, the surveyors are actually looking for ice and Ice-water machines to be plugged into GFCI outlets if they are in what they see as patient areas. If a facility wanted to be proactive regarding this issue, they would complete an inventory of all ice machines, identifying their locations and giving them a unique inventory number, identifying if GFCI was required for that specific machine and identifying if it had in fact been provided. Machines requiring but missing this protection would be corrected by providing GFCI protection.