Safety Share

March 15, 2006

JCAHO clarifies position on alcohol hand sanitizers – foam and gel now permitted in corridors

Corridor location of alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) dispensers has been viewed as a key strategy to improved access and adherence to hand hygiene.

Following concerns expressed by multiple stakeholders, JCAHO clarified its December 2005 interpretation that restricted foam dispensers to patient rooms; the new guidance treats gels and foams the same and now permits foam dispensers in corridors. This clarification was published in the March 2006 issue of Joint Commission Perspectives. This new interpretation removes what is hoped to be one of the last barriers to hallway placement of dispensers with alcohol-based hand sanitizers because of fire safety concerns.

Recent changes in national and international fire codes lifted previous restrictions for corridor placement of alcohol-based hand rub (AHBRs) dispensers, in part, because fire modeling studies on gel formulations showed a low risk for fire hazards if proper guidelines are followed (e.g., permissible placement and volumes). (See related stories in Safety Share)

Key points of the JCAHO clarification include:

  • Foam dispensers are allowed in corridors if they meet the same conditions required for gel dispensers (Note: JCAHO states that this position may be modified if safety concerns arise in the future.)
  • There must be at least six inches from the center of a dispenser to an ignition source (e.g., electrical outlets).
  • An equivalent level of safety may be achieved (if all specific requirements cannot be met) by performing a product-specific risk assessment and determining alternative methods for managing the risks.

Download an FAQ on placement of dispensers near ignition sources: FAQ on placement of dispensers (.doc) (30 KB)

For background and more information, go to Premier's Safety Share article archives and locate "Hand Hygiene" in the alphabetical index.

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