Institute warns of hazardous nuts and bolts on medical gear

It can happen to anyone, it seems. The picture you just hung on the wall hours or days before falls on the floor without warning. Using an old hammer, you realize you had better fasten the head to the handle a little tighter or somebody might get hurt.

Still, when one of the world’s leading authorities on healthcare safety lists “Loose Nuts and Bolts” on its annual list of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards, it is a little surprising and a little scary.

ECRI lists avoidable and rising technology risks

For governments, industry and organizations around the world, the ECRI Institute does research and provides information on medical products and practices. Its stated mission is to drive up safety and drive down costs in medicine.

Among its jobs is conducting accident investigations, which help it scan the horizon for growing risks. They also become one of the bases on which ECRI’s Health Devices Group creates its annual list of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards that need the most attention now.

Employees, patients and families all at risk

The institute cites loose nuts and bolts leading to equipment failures such as rolling carts designed to move baby scales. Newborn babies are three or four feet off the ground when weighed on such carts.

On the other end of the size scale, newer systems for angiographic imaging often could fit in most people’s garage and have masses measured in tons.

Nuts and bolts that fasten wheels to movable equipment or immovable equipment to floors or walls can do a lot of damage. Neither patients, staff, visiting family nor anyone else are immune to the hazards of falling or tipping objects.

Safety recommendations for nuts and bolts in 2020

ECRI urges medical facilities to stay diligent about device inspections, and inspectors should check out the nuts, bolts and fasteners for loosening and for overall condition, whether or not this is on the checklist. Staff operating the devices also need to stay alert to the issue and be sure to alert the right people if anything is loose, missing, wobbling, or getting noisy.