Industrial Utility Efficiency    

NFPA 99 Medical Air

Compressed air and gases are vital to numerous healthcare facility operations. Commonly used for breathing, sedation, and the operation of medical instruments, healthcare facilities must rely on these utilities for lifesaving and therapeutic benefits. The quality of the air and gas produced by the facility’s compressed air systems is paramount to their efficacy in promoting positive outcomes for patients.
In modern and industrial work settings, people spend more than 90% of their time in enclosed spaces, such as warehouses, office buildings and factories. In most indoor environments, the air contains a variety of chemical and microbial particles, commonly defined as indoor pollutants, which can severely affect human health and product quality (1). Industries like food and beverage, medical devices and pharmaceutical manufacturers rely on their scheduled compliance testing to confirm the presence or absence of issues in workflow pipelines that are detrimental to the daily output and safety of the product.
Compressed Air Best Practices® interviewed Norman Davis, Jr., President of ENMET, LLC. Our products include medical verification instrumentation, compressed airline monitors, and single- and multi-gas detectors along with ambient air oxygen monitors. Many of these systems are designed to ensure compliance with NFPA 99 (National Fire Protection Agency) Medical Air Systems Guidelines and OSHA monitoring requirements for Grade D breathing air.
Compressed air is used in more than 70 percent of all manufacturing activities including supplying breathing air to personnel using supplied air respirators. Hazardous breathing conditions exist in many routine industrial operations, such as chemical manufacturing, hospitals, abrasive blasting, paint spraying, industrial cleaning, and arc welding. In these and other operations that introduce contaminants into the workplace, supplied-air respirators, air filtration systems and carbon monoxide monitors are frequently used for worker protection.
This article will examine in detail four of the five acceptable WAGD implementations under NFPA 99, along with some alternative ways they may be implemented. This article will not deal with passive implementations.
Large hospitals often use compressed air for important operational related end uses. The systems that produce this air need to supply clean and dry compressed air with a high level of reliability. These systems are not immune to efficiency problems as is the case for any compressed air system.
BSA LifeStructures is a full service architectural and engineering firm specializing in healthcare, higher education and technology facilities. We employ close to 260 associates and are established in two locations; Indianapolis and Chicago. Our strongest focus is on hospitals and university facilities.
A good-size hospital with 200 beds and ten operating rooms can have a medical air system, a laboratory air system, and pneumatic air systems. The medical air systems must all follow the NFPA 99 guidelines. We follow these guidelines, from the beginning, when we assess the demand for air in a hospital.
The most abundant contaminant in any compressed air system is water. This can be in either liquid or vapour form. Atmospheric air is already very wet, and becomes saturated when compressed. This water vapour will condense when the temperature drops, after the compressor, and will damage air receivers, pipework and equipment. For this reason coalescing filters and then dryers are used to remove the bulk of this water.  
Hazardous breathing conditions exist in routine industrial operations, such as hospitals, abrasive blasting, paint spraying, industrial cleaning, and arc welding. In these and other operations that introduce contaminants into the workplace, supplied-air respirators are frequently used for worker protection.
In the U.S. as an example, the NFPA has taken the view that if your compressor draws in good clean ambient air, the air stays clean through the compressor, is then dried and filtered, when you deliver it to the patient it will be entirely satisfactory. After all, when you went into the hospital that’s what you were breathing and when you leave you will breathe it again!