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Central Service/Sterile Processing FAQs: Surveys, Jewelry, Box Contaminants and More

The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) routinely fields questions from members about various aspects of the Central Service/Sterile Processing (CS/SP) profession. What follows are some of the more frequently asked questions, answered by IAHCSMM Education Director Natalie Lind, CRCST, CHL, FCS.

Q: We recently had a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services survey and the inspector questioned our policy for testing our cleaning equipment. We showed him that we follow ANSI/AAMI ST79, Comprehensive guide to steam sterilization and sterility assurance in health care facilities, and presented him with our documentation of checking each piece of equipment weekly. He told us the standard had changed and we needed to comply with the new standard. Can you please tell me the new standard?

A: With the release of ANSI/AAMI ST79: 2017, the standard for testing equipment changed from weekly or preferably daily to testing each day of use.

Q: Can I wear my wedding ring while working in the Central Service/Sterile Processing department?

A: ANSI/AAMI ST79, Comprehensive guide to steam sterilization and sterility assurance in health care facilities, section 4.5.1, states that jewelry and wristwatches should not be worn in the decontamination, preparation or sterilization areas. Jewelry should not be worn because it can harbor microorganisms and also cause holes in gloves or other barriers intended for protection. Wristwatches and rings, in particular, can also catch on equipment or instruments, which may injure personnel or damage the item or packaging.

Q: When our Central Service/Sterile Processing employees work for long periods of time at the sink in the decontamination area, they develop back and foot discomfort. We would like to use anti-fatigue mats at the sinks. Is it acceptable to have these mats in the decontamination area?

A: Anti-fatigue mats have been shown to reduce back and foot discomfort, and they may be used in the decontamination area; however, there are a few important features to consider when selecting the right type of mat. First, it should be a gel foot pad that can withstand daily cleaning and disinfection with an Environmental Protection Agency-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant. To help prevent trips and falls, the mat should also have tapered edges to ease the transition from the mat height to the floor. To reduce the risk of slips, the mat should have a slip-resistant bottom/underside and the top/upper part of the mat should feature an anti-skid surface.

Q: We received an item for surgery that needs to be returned to the manufacturer after its use. We don’t want to lose the box the item was delivered in, so can the Central Service/Sterile Processing department store the box until the item is ready to be returned?

A: According to ANSI/AAMI ST79:2017, Comprehensive guide to steam sterilization and sterility assurance in health care facility standard, Section 3.3.6.5 Breakout area/room, neither corrugated boxes nor shipping boxes are permitted in the CS/SP and surgical areas (any box taken into a CS/SP or surgical area must also not have web edges or generate dust). Received shipping boxes can be left in a breakout room, which is near or adjacent to a surgical area or the CS/SP department.

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