ASHE is following up with results of a survey it sent to members in 2021 to gather feedback on procedures for spare circuit breakers in health care facilities.
The survey was prompted by an alert from The Joint Commission (TJC) stating circuit breakers labeled as “spare” in either the circuit breaker legend or panel schedule and toggled to the “on” position would result in a requirement for improvement (RFI). The accrediting organization stated that findings would be scored under Environment of Care (EC) Standard EC.02.05.01, Element of Performance 9: “The [organization] labels utility system controls to facilitate partial or complete emergency shutdowns.”
The ASHE survey sought to gather member feedback to gauge if internal policies at health care facilities differed from TJC’s stance, especially considering that the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, 2011 edition, takes a neutral stance on whether to have spare circuit breakers toggled to the “on” or “off” position. In fact, the NFPA’s Healthcare Interpretations Task Force was posed with the question, “Do NFPA 70-2011 and subsequent editions require properly labeled spare breakers to be kept in any specific position, either on or off?” at the 2022 NFPA Technical Meeting. The committee’s answer was a simple, “No.” In its 2021 survey, ASHE found that:
- More than 83% of survey respondents keep spare circuit breakers in the “off” position.
- More than 5% keep them in the “on” position.
- More than 10% report they do not keep them in any specific position.
The majority of survey respondents who keep spare circuit breakers in the “off” position report doing so to comply with TJC’s Standard EC.02.05.01. However, about 30% of those same respondents also stated that they disagreed with TJC’s stance and believe that the “on” position provides a greater degree of safety and ease for electricians when searching for tripped circuit breakers.