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Changes to Infection Control Standards

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It seems like only yesterday that ASSE International was announcing the completion of the revision to theASSE/IAPMO/ANSI Series 12000,Professional Qualification Standard for Infection Control Risk Assessment for All Building Systems. ASSE 12000-2018 was published just a little more than two years ago and now we’re nearing the completion of the next revision. With so much happening so quickly in the areas of infection control, water quality, and Legionellamanagement, we needed to revise the standard again to keep current with these ever-changing fields. We are all certainly more aware of the potential hazards from water mist or droplets in regard to the threat of Legionnaire’s disease. This threat has increased within building water systems that have been left stagnant from low or no occupancy due to “work from home” orders or renovation. As much of a threat as Legionnaires Disease is, it is not the only water quality concern. ASSE International is working from multiple fronts to address solutions to water quality issues. We want to raise awareness of how trained and certified personnel are part of the solution in improving water quality and preventing the spread of infection.

ASHRAE 188, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems, outlines the requirements for water management systems within buildings. ASSE has developed professional qualifications standards that define the knowledge and experience needed to meet the requirements of ASHRAE 188. Certification requirements for contractors and tradespeople from the plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC, and fire sprinkler industries are addressed in Standards 12060-12063. The draft Series 12000-2021 adds elements concerning incidence response when a problem is identified within a water system.

ASSE 12080, for the Legionella Water and Safety Specialist, has not changed, but it has been incorporated into the ASSE 12000 standards series with the new title of Professional Qualifications Standard for Water Management and Infection Control Risk Assessment for Building Systems. Individuals certifying to any one of the standards within the ASSE Series 12000 will benefit from the update and reorganization of the appendixes in the series. Information on Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) and Water Infection Control Risk Assessment (WICRA) matrixes, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and other supplemental resources are invaluable to anyone concerned with infection control risk assessment and water management. ASSE International’s effort to address and improve water quality for all buildings is clear. We are helping to identify a qualified workforce that can participate on water management teams to ensure that water within buildings is to the level of quality that we expect.

Changes to the infection control standards have been made for two reasons: the first was to add more content involving environment of care, construction risk assessments, and incidence response. This will make for a clearer understanding of the responsibilities of construction and maintenance workers and their employers – particularly in health care facilities. The second is to better organize the standard and certification, considering the changes made in both the 2018 revision and this new 2021 revision. The new ASSE/IAPMO/ASNI Series 12000-2021 will combine standards 12010 (Biological Pathogens for Construction and Maintenance Personnel), 12030 (Waterborne Pathogens for Construction and Maintenance Personnel), and 12040 (Contamination/Infection Prevention Procedures to Protect Facility Occupants and Operations) into a single standard – ASSE 12010. This directly corresponds to the 12010 and 12020 (Biological Pathogens for Construction and Maintenance Employers) certifications that ASSE offers. Anyone who was previously ASSE 12000 Health and Safety Certified will be converted to ASSE 12010 ICRA Certified at the time of recertification.

Recognizing the effects of construction or maintenance work on the environment of care was a major reason for revising the Series 12000 standard. Previously, trades people were not necessarily trained on how their actions could adversely affect patient care in a healthcare facility. Now, more than ever, we recognize that each person in a healthcare environment has a responsibility to contribute to the best possible outcome for patients. This is not limited to health care providers alone. Understanding the environment of care allows the construction and maintenance worker to be conscientious about their role in the spread of potentially dangerous pathogens. It also helps in the understanding of how noise, vibration, utility service interruptions, and so many other factors affect the healthcare environment.

ASSE International’s effort to address and improve infection control and the environment of care within healthcare facilities is clear. Training and certification are key elements in having qualified individuals protecting occupants of these facilities.

Article by Marianne Waickman first appeared in ASSE’s Working Pressure magazine

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