Assessing Fire Risk in Your Operating Room: An Updated Algorithm

Safeguarding patient well-being demands meticulous attention to potential hazards, including the often-overlooked threat of fire and burns in the operating room. In the latest Environment of Care guidelines, The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has provided a Fire Risk Assessment and Prevention Algorithm, offering a comprehensive framework to proactively address fire risks in the OR. Let’s dive into the key steps of this assessment process:

Identification of Flammable Solutions:

First, examine whether an alcohol-based skin antiseptic or other flammable solution is being used preoperatively. If so, implement interventions to reduce the risk of fires and burns. This includes letting the solution dry completely, avoiding excess solution, and removing saturated materials away from the patient. 

Assessment of Oxygen-Enriched Environments:

Oxygen serves as a vital component for anesthesia in surgery, yet it also poses a significant fire hazard when present in high concentrations. If open oxygen or nitrous oxide is being administered, additional precautions must be taken. This may include configuring drapes to allow oxygen to flow freely and using moistened radiopaque sponges near the oxidizer. Work with the anesthesia team to ensure proper methods and concentrations are used.

Proper Handling of Ignition Sources:

If an ignition source such as an electrosurgical unit, laser, or fiber-optic light cable are being used, the staff must properly handle the device to ensure a safe procedure. Among other precautions, clinicians should use the lowest possible power settings, place equipment in standby when not in use, and use protective caps (like GloShield) on light cables. If other ignition sources are being used, like defibrillators or drills, manufacturer instructions should always be followed. 

Communication and Collaboration:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful fire prevention strategy. The AORN algorithm emphasizes clear delineation of roles and responsibilities among surgical team members, fostering a culture of collaboration and ensuring swift, coordinated responses in the event of a fire emergency.

Recognizing the diversity of surgical environments, the algorithm offers flexibility in tailoring risk assessment and prevention strategies to suit unique settings and procedures. Whether in a traditional operating room or an ambulatory surgical center, healthcare providers can adapt the algorithm to address specific fire hazards effectively.

Fire risk assessment is not a one-time endeavor but should be conducted before beginning every procedure. By closely monitoring outcomes and incorporating insights gleaned from near-miss incidents, healthcare facilities can iteratively enhance their fire safety protocols to ensure optimal patient care.

The AORN Fire Risk Assessment and Prevention Algorithm epitomizes proactive risk management, offering a systematic approach to identify, mitigate, and respond to fire hazards in perioperative settings. Through diligent implementation of these steps and a commitment to ongoing improvement, healthcare providers can safeguard patient well-being and uphold the highest standards of safety in surgical environments. 

Using GloShield to cover fiber-optic light cords is one seamless way to add a proactive layer of protection to your OR. To learn more about how GloShied protects both your staff and patients from fires and burns caused by fiber-optic light cables, check out this quick demonstration or reach out to us

Latest AORN Surgical Fire Safety Guidelines Hot SheetDownload