A feature in the January/February 2012 issue of NFPA Journal® looks at operating room fires and at efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to address the problem by launching an education program for medical professionals using safeguards found in NFPA codes and standards. According to our story:
The FDA estimates that about 600 surgical fires occur annually, though the actual figure is likely higher; fires not resulting in death or serious injury tend to be underreported, since only about half of U.S. states are required to report "adverse events" at health care facilities. And while not all of those fires produce burns, the FDA points out that "some result in injury, disfigurement, or even death."
The number of surgical fires may be relatively small, but the FDA considered the yearly burn reports it receives through its voluntary reporting system to be important examples of safety shortfalls. Surgical devices, for example, must adhere to the FDA’s pre-market clearance process to ensure appropriate safety labels accompany the products. "There’s information on the flammability of alcohol-based skin preps and information on not letting the liquid pool that really clarifies the risks," says Karen Weiss, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research as well as its Safe Use Initiative, which fosters collaboration with partnering agencies to promote safe medication use. "We know labeling is one aspect to maximize safety, but it isn’t sufficient. People don’t always read the label. That alone won’t change people’s behaviors and practices."
-Scott Sutherland, executive editor, NFPA Journal