The Health of Healthcare Facilities

By John Nussbaum IPP, FASSE/FASPE

It is said that the plumber protects the health of the nation. Here in Southeastern Michigan it begins with safeguarding our potable water supply from waterborne and transmitted diseases as well as separating the potable water supply systems from waste and contamination. Thus you have two or more separate engineered systems. This is accomplished by the combined efforts of an educated and skilled plumbing industry. It begins with the design professionals who are Mechanical and Plumbing Engineers, Contractors, Licensed Master and Journeymen Plumbers, manufacturers of materials used in plumbing, local state and national regulatory people consisting of plan reviewers and code enforcement plumbing inspectors. Regulatory personnel may be college educated or in many cases come from the plumbing, mechanical or electrical trade.

Mechanical/plumbing engineers obtain their degree by taking engineering courses from an accredited technical or recognized engineering college. A Master and Journeyman Plumber starts as a state registered apprentice, works under the jurisdiction of a licensed master plumber and attends classes in approved apprenticeship programs.

While the state requires only three years of field experience, union programs require five years of field and classroom training to qualify as a building trade’s journey plumber, as well as a plumbing license. If a plumbing/mechanical contractor is not a master plumber, then he/she must employ a master plumber for his / her contracting business. Licensed master and journeymen plumbers are required to partake in plumbing code update training classes every three years in order to renew their state licenses.

Plumbing in Health Care Facilities

Health care facility plumbing in southeastern Michigan is installed by the mechanical/plumbing contractor’s licensed journeymen plumbers. Like the normal potable water system, fixtures, soil, waste and vent piping plumbers are responsible for the installation of fixtures, components, devices and equipment especially designed and manufactured to meet the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society, for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.

Here in Michigan, as of now, medical gas systems and equipment installed in healthcare facilities are covered by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 99 Standard for Health Care Facilities, NFPA 55 Bulk Medical Gas Systems, NFPA 99C 2005 Gas and Vacuum Systems NFPA 99 2012 Edition, unfortunately, has not yet been accepted in the State of Michigan). The American Society of Sanitary Engineering /International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials/ an American National Standard Institute (ASSE/IAPMO/ANSI) Series 6000 is a specifically accepted standard for health care facilities and laboratories.

Codes and standards adhered to by the Plumbing and Mechanical Industry are the means by which the general public, and especially hospital patients are protected against waterborne bacterial transmitted diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, legionella, typhoid, polio, hepatitis, SARS and gastroenteritis, to name a few.

The consensus groups, who promulgate codes and standards, strive to improve infection control in healthcare facilities in ways that allow them to be both environmentally conscious and sanitary. Medical gas and vacuum systems are installed by licensed plumbers who have a general Knowledge of Medical Gas Systems. Installers must be able to identify and demonstrate knowledge of the applicable laws, codes, rules, listing agencies and regulations from federal, state and local levels pertaining to medical gas and vacuum systems. They are required to be tested to ASSE/IAPMO/ANSI Standard 6010 for installers. Training takes place at the Plumbing Industry Training Center in Troy, Michigan. There is a brazing test; and third party certification. The National Inspection-Testing-Certification (NITC) issues the certificates. These tests are proctored by MCA Detroit contractors selected by (UA-ATR’s) Authorized Testing Representatives.

In February and March of 2012 the Eastern Michigan Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) hosted “How to use the MED Gas Design Guide” training seminars for 60-plus individuals made up of contractors, designers, plumbing engineers and installers. The attendees were given a one-floor hospital plan and throughout the eight-hour day, using the guide, had to place the med gas and vacuum systems on the plan while being in compliance with the applicable codes and standards.

The seminar also featured a presentation by Mark Allen, marketing director with Beacon Medaes, who has been involved in medical gas systems since 1978 when certification of medical gas systems was just gaining credence. His background includes knowledge of virtually all aspects of medical gas work including regulations, testing and verification, as well as product development. He is an active member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Medical Gas and Vacuum Systems, the Canadian Standards Association Technical Committee and US Technical Advisory Group to the ISO.

As baby boomers are now reaching retirement age, we are in the process of upgrading current healthcare facilities and expanding existing ones. Also, new healthcare facilities are being built as communities are spreading out. All supported by skilled plumbing industry professionals, who are meeting the challenges and ensuring the safety of all individuals– whether they are patients, staff members or visitors.

Author Bio: John Nussbaum is the liaison for Mechanical Contractors Asso¬ciation of Detroit (MCA). As a founding member of the Code Study and Development Group of Southeastern Michigan, he has written bylaws for them and arranged with the ICC, ASSE and NFPA to purchase code books and standards at their discount pricing for members. He is also past International President and Fellow of the American Society of Sani¬tary Engineering (ASSE) and was recently elected to the College of Fellows of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE).

One thought on “The Health of Healthcare Facilities

  1. Joey Post authorReply

    Great post. Medical gases are extremely important, we’ve developed the first free discussion platform for medical gas professionals. Please take a look, sharing of medical gas information is vital.

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