Mixing electricity and water – but only in conversation!

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

Something of a mixed bag this week, but definitely two topics that are on the rise in terms of potential impact on our facilities.  One’s been building to a crescendo over the last little while, the other has (sort of) infiltrated our highways and byways—all the way to our parking lots/structures. So let’s start with the quiet one first (though I suppose neither is particularly noise-some…but I digress.)

By now, I suspect that everyone within the sound of my voice has been faced with the impact of electric vehicles and making accommodations for those vehicles to be charging while their owners are at work. Nothing fancy there, but it would seem that charging stations in parking garages can represent something of a risky proposition. In an article in the latest edition of Health Facilities Management, Chad Beebe AIA, CHFM, takes on some of the hazards presented by charging stations. (I particularly enjoyed the observation that the pressure to install charging stations is a little less traditional in that we typically are not filling up employee vehicles at the gas pump—but hey, who knows, maybe gas pumps will be a staff satisfier. Hopefully that all occurs after I retire.)

The article talks about some studies that are indicating that there may be a greater risk of fire, and, with the complexities of just putting out an electric vehicle fire (never mind the potential for that fire to be in a structure with a fairly significant combustible load of fuel-filled plastic vehicles), this may end up forcing a recalibration of fire suppression systems, among other things.

And to add to the complexities, the good folks at NFPA have published education materials regarding the fire causes and risks of electric bikes. I would venture to guess that, depending on your climate, these might become increasingly popular among work commuters. As always, it remains to be seen but it would seem that technological advancements are not always a zero-sum game (but maybe that’s just us safety folk.)

In other news, for you folks with facilities located within 10 miles of the Atlantic or Gulf coasts (and I know there are a fair number that fall into that category, some of which I’ve had the pleasure of doing consulting work), you might find this study, published by the American Geophysical Union’s GeoHealth publication, a bit sobering as the attempt is made to determine the ongoing influence of climate change as it relates to flood risks resulting from rising sea levels and the impact of the potential increase in severity of hurricanes.

Certainly, this year has not gone unnoticed on the hurricane front, with Ian being particularly severe and we’ve still got a few weeks left in the official (more or less) hurricane season. As with the electric vehicle risks, the data is going to continue to be collected and analyzed well into the future, but I think these are going to be staying on the “radar” for some time to come.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.