NHS Updates Fire Risk Advice

Posted 12th December 2018 by Dave Cross
One of the reasons vaping is opposed in and around NHS property has been the claim that recharging the devices poses a risk greater than that of recharging any other electrical device. Following recent moves to push for vaping to be accepted across NHS sites, a new estates and facilities alert downgrades the risk to one comparable from recharging a mobile phone.

Estates & Facilities Alert EFA/2018/007 “Fire risk from personal rechargeable electronic devices” was released last week, and should now have been read by those with responsibility for ensuring on-site safety.

Although the alert begins by stating, “Personal rechargeable electronic devices present a fire risk during use and when being charged,” the advice is toned down from the previous EFA/2014/002 “E-cigarettes, batteries and chargers”.

It explains the reason for the update: “Estates and Facilities Alert, EFA/2014/002, E-cigarettes, batteries and chargers, was issued in 2014 in response to a number of reported incidents where e-cigarettes exploded or ignited causing fire while recharging or in use in an oxygen rich environment (i.e. when patients are prescribed medical oxygen). This gave rise to concerns that products did not have adequate over-charge safeguards. However there is now a licensing regime in place with specified safety standards for e-cigarettes.”

The advice has been sent out to all Directors of Estates & Facilities, Directors of Nursing, Medical Directors, Risk Managers, Health & Safety Managers, Fire Safety Officers, and Safety Representatives working with the NHS.

The advice comes from the production of reports by Public Health England, the Houses of Parliament Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology, the National Fire Chiefs Council, and the EIGA Safety Information on the use of electronic cigarettes with Homecare Oxygen.

Recipients of the alert are instructed to review the guidance provided (referring them to the reports listed above) and “update fire policies, risk assessments procedures and training programmes as required to reflect new guidance.”

Site administrators and alert recipients have been told they should place notices of the potential risk (“this could be posters/signs near accessible socket outlets”) that is in line with that from other rechargeable devices. It has been suggested that vaping is bracketed in with them as follows: “All personal electronic devices that require recharging such as e-cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, e-bike batteries, etc…”

The alert makes reference to the recent reports by Public Health England and the Houses of Parliament, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which said: “It seems likely that the risk of fire and electrical fault is similar to other domestic electrical products, indicating that EC [e-cigarettes] should be subject to the same guidelines and safety mechanisms”.

It concludes: “There remains a risk of fire from all faulty rechargeable electrical devices in general and in particular from those using lithium ion batteries. Consequently, there is a need for updated guidance on their safe use and charging in the healthcare environment.”

The update has been welcomed by Public Health England’s Martin Dockrell, who described it as: “refreshed and improved advice on electronic cigarette safety in a smoke-free NHS, basically the same as a mobile phone. The guidance it replaces was way less permissive so their are no *new* grounds to ban.”

Sarah Jakes, New Nicotine Alliance, pointed to “Norman Lamb’s recent butt kicking exercise,” where the MP castigated NHS trusts for not being more proactive. Sarah feels positively about the future: “Looks like we can expect more joined up thinking from the NHS.”

Louise Ross, who used to lead Leicester’s stop-smoking service, said: “I really hope we see the practice of treating the two types of device [mobile phones and vape devices] very differently stops soon.”

 

Resources:

  1. E-cigarettes: an evidence update, a report commissioned by Public Health England, Aug 2015 - Link
  2. Houses of Parliament Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology Postnote 533, Electronic Cigarettes, Aug 2016 - Link
  3. National Fire Chiefs Council Guidance Note, E-cigarette use in smokefree NHS settings, June 2018 – Link
  4. EIGA Safety Information - Use of electronic cigarettes with Homecare Oxygen - Link
 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker