“What is a dirty utility room?” Many people believe the answer is that it is where soiled linens go. But as environmental services (EVS) providers in hospitals and workers in other types of medical cleaning services know, this is not correct.
A dirty utility room, more often referred to as a sluice room, is a human waste disposal room. If human waste is not stored and disposed of properly, this leaves patients, staff, and visitors at high risk of hospital-associated infections (HAIs) and healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). A properly laid out and stocked sluice room is vital to infection prevention in all hospitals and other healthcare-related facilities. Outbreaks of HAIS or HCAIs not only pose a dangerous health hazard but can ruin a facilities reputation, impacting everything from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to staffing—and so much more.
With this in mind, below is a basic checklist of what a facility’s sluice room should include to enable EVS providers to safely dispose of human waste.
Slop disposal. Also called a sluice sink or slop hopper, this disposal allows human waste, such as the contents of vomit bowls, drainage bags, bedpans, and urine bottles, to be safely disposed of until it can be permanently removed.
Washer/disinfector. This machine is for cleaning reusable items associated with human waste, such as bedpans, urine bottles, and commode pots, which are unsanitary and unsafe to clean by hand.
Pulp macerator. This is a human waste disposal machine that pulverizes human waste and pulp products associated with is, such as toilet paper. It turns wasted into a slurry that can be disposed of through the regular sewer system.
Foot-operated clinical waste bin. This is where items such as used gloves, masks, and aprons as well as other contaminated medical supplies can be disposed of without touching the surface, to reduce the chance of spreading HAIs or HCAIs.
Deep stainless steel sink. This is for everyday washing and rinsing of items. The depth prevents splashing, while stainless steel is easy to clean and nonporous, which helps prevent pathogens from infiltrating the surface.
Cabinets. Because sluice rooms must be kept completely hygienic at all times, clutter needs to be kept to a minimum. Closed cabinets keep the area neat and equipment sanitary.
Work surfaces. These surfaces are used as a temporary spot for clean, disinfected items and must be kept sanitary.
Shelves. These are used in many healthcare settings for storing human waste-related pulp products, such as toilet paper and toweling, to ensure they are handy.
Liquid soap and dispenser. Handwashing remains the No. 1 way to prevent the spread of infection and is essential in a sluice room setting.
Stainless steel sink. Separate from the deep sink for washing items, this should be situated close to the sluice room door for washing hands before leaving the room and touching anything, including the door.
Paper towel and dispenser. Proper hand drying reduces the spread of germs, lowering the risk of HAIs and HCAIs. Using paper towels is the best way to ensure hands are dried properly, especially in a hospital setting.
Foot-operated trash bin. This should be separate from the clinical waste bin and placed near the handwashing sink and door for disposal of toweling and other items.
Sealed floor covering. Floors in sluice rooms are usually vinyl or another smooth flooring to make it easier to clean up spills
Extractor fan. Waste products are inherently malodorous. An extractor fan can help keep the room from being offensive to the nose while keeping air circulating.
Sensor lighting. This eliminates the potential spread of infection caused by high-touch light switches. It also helps reduce energy usage and costs.
If you are an EVS provider and the sluice room is lacking any of these items, speak up and suggest they be added. You will be making an important contribution to infection prevention.
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