T-Safe In Focus

Sensor Taps and Point-of-Use Filters

In this T-safe In Focus story we explore the impact of incompatible point-of-use filters on sensor-operated taps and how this can adversely affect infection control practices. We give advice for selecting the right filter for the right tap outlet to ensure that filter performance is optimised, sensor taps remain operational, and end-users are protected from the risk of waterborne pathogen infection.

Sensor Taps

Sensor-operated taps are widely used in healthcare facilities and are intended to reduce the risk of transmission of bacteria through hand contamination. They are operated via an infrared sensor that activates a solenoid valve, allowing water to move through the tap body to the outlet. Sensor taps are used primarily in wall-mounted configurations in association with clinical wash basins but may also be used in deck-mounted applications.

Although intended as a measure to reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, sensor taps have been at the center of studies that have identified them as being implicated in cases of microbial contamination and outbreaks of Pseudomonas. This has mainly been attributed to contamination issues with complex TMVs associated with sensor taps, but also where healthcare staff have been unable to freely use the outlet, resulting in ineffective hand hygiene practices in hand contamination of the outlet.

 

Sensor Taps and Point-of-Use Filters

Hand wash stations in healthcare settings should be designed to mitigate the risk of transmission of harmful bacteria to end-users and patients. This includes considering how the tap and outlet will operate once a point-of-use water filter has been installed. This should consider how the installation of a filter may affect the operation of the tap, how end-users interact with it, and ensure that filters do not impede any specific inherent infection control design feature.

Installation of a point-of-use filter will inevitably impact how a hand wash station is used. Unfortunately, this is an area that is often overlooked at the design stage and can result in a scenario where the installation of a filter may compromise controls intended to mitigate against retrograde- and cross-contamination caused by hand contact with sensor taps.

 

Incompatible point-of-use filters can impact sensor-operated taps in several ways:
Outlet usability

Conventional point-of-use filters have been known to completely impede the operation of sensor taps due to their design physically blocking the infrared motion detector. This results in healthcare workers and patients having to directly touch the sensor to operate the tap thus introducing contamination of harmful bacteria via touch, the very thing sensor taps are intended to reduce.

User behaviour

Where conventional point-of-use filters restrict the operation of sensor taps. This can lead to changes in end-user behaviour in how they use and interact with the outlet that can have secondary impacts on infection control and water safety.

Stagnation

Users may be less likely to use the outlet, instead choosing other non-sensor-operated hand wash stations in the vicinity, this can lead to a reduction in water turnover and stagnation at the outlet, which can contribute to exacerbating the water safety problem.

Hand hygiene

If the operation of an outlet is restricted, we’ve seen users be less likely to follow standard hand hygiene protocols when operating under the pressure of a busy healthcare environment. When protocols are not followed, it increases the transmission risk of pathogenic bacteria and compromise patient safety.

Retrograde contamination

The incident of retrograde contamination (a phenomenon where bacteria from the environment come into contact with filter housing that may be transmitted to an end-user in the water flow) may be increased significantly when end-users have to touch the infrared sensor to operate the tap. This can compromise the effectiveness of the filter as a water safety control measure and may require more frequent cleaning protocols.

The T-safe Solution

At T-safe we understand the challenges, complexities, and nuances involved with preventing waterborne pathogen infection in high-risk healthcare environments. It is important to consider the relationship between tap and basin installations, infection control processes, and end-user behaviour when designing point-of-use filters. This is of particular importance when considering pathogens such as Pseudomonas, which can be transmitted to patients directly or indirectly through hand contact and poor hygiene practices.

The matter is made more complicated given the wide range of different tap and basin installations used in healthcare environments that can result in compatibility issues with point-of-use filters. These compatibility challenges can result in the efficacy of the filter being compromised, a reduction in the usability of the outlet, and impact designed infection controls such as non-touch sensor taps.

Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach is not practical when it comes to selecting a suitable point-of-use filter. It highlights the importance of choosing the right filter for the right outlet to optimise the efficacy of waterborne infection prevention and control.

Medical Tap Filter Side Mount

The Medical Tap Filter Side Mount has been specifically designed to work seamlessly with sensor-operated taps, ensuring the unimpeded and smooth operation of the infrared non-touch function.

Unlike conventional water filters, the unique side mount with a swivel mechanism enables the filter to be installed in a manner that does not impede the infrared motion detector in both wall-mounted and deck-mounted tap installations.

 

 

The right filter for the right outlet

The implications of installing the incorrect filter to an outlet and basin configuration can be significant, the consequences of which may be detrimental to end user safety, impede the operation of the outlet or contravene Water regulations/Bye-Laws. Ultimately, compatibility of the filter with the outlet and basin is key to ensuring this is avoided.

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