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Hospital Grade Wiring and Devices: When are they Required?

There are many different codes and regulations that engineers need to reference to ensure their healthcare design projects meet all the necessary requirements. Sifting through each of these can cause even the most basic requirements to become mixed up within a design. From my own experience, one of the more common misunderstandings is the difference in the requirements for hospital-grade wiring and hospital-grade receptacles within patient care spaces.


Patient Care Spaces

Before diving into the requirements for wiring and devices, it is important to understand what makes a patient care space. The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines a patient care space as “any space of a health care facility wherein patients are intended to be examined or treated”. These spaces can be further broken down into categories, defined by the type of patient care provided within each space.

Patient Care Spaces- Table

It is important to note that the distinction of each space type should be provided by the health care facility’s governing body. While the NEC provides examples of each category, it is up to the health care facility to designate each space with a category based on the type of patient care anticipated. This is particularly important to confirm when designing imaging rooms as they span from Category 1 to Category 3 type spaces.


Hospital-Grade Wiring

The term “hospital-grade wiring” is a generalization referring to all wiring that falls under Article 517.13 of the NEC. This article requires all wiring within patient care spaces to be provided with a redundant grounding path. Article 517.13(A) requires the raceway, cable armor, or sheath to act as an effective ground-fault current path in addition to the green-insulated copper grounding conductor required by Article 517.13(B). The following common wiring methods will typically meet both requirements.


  • EMT and Cable

  • Type AC Cable

  • Type MCAP Cable “Hospital-Grade MC”


Hospital Grade Wiring

Standard MC Cable and wiring within PVC conduit will not meet the requirements of Article 517.13. These acceptable wiring methods must be used in all patient care spaces within a health care facility. The one exception to this rule is the wiring to any light fixtures mounted above 7’-6” and their associated light switches, should those be located outside the patient care vicinity. In that case, it is acceptable to meet the requirements of either 517.13(A) or 517.13(B).

 

Some owners have set a requirement that these wiring methods be used throughout their facilities, even in areas where patient care is not provided. This helps to “future proof” an installation, allowing any existing wiring to be maintained and reused should a non-healthcare space (think offices, breakrooms, corridors) be reworked into a patient care space.


Hospital-Grade Receptacles

Hospital-grade receptacles are required to ensure a proper grounding connection when equipment is plugged in within a patient care space. They also require additional pull-force to remove the plugs, helping prevent any accidental removal. Unlike hospital-grade wiring, hospital grade receptacles are only required in specific patient care spaces; Category 1 and Category 2. This is noted in Articles 517.18 and 517.19 of the NEC. While these receptacles are not required in every type of patient care space, many health care facilities will require they be installed in all areas of their buildings to help ensure their spaces are code compliant, should the space type change in the future.

 


Hospital Grade Receptacles

Conclusion

While these requirements may seem simple to follow, they are also simple to mix up. The more stringent requirement falls on hospital-grade wiring, being required in all patient care spaces. The requirement for hospital-grade receptacles is a little more lenient, only being required in Category 1 and Category 2 spaces. It is also important to remember to reach out to the governing body of the health care facility you are working at to ensure you know exactly how each patient care space is being classified and confirm if they have any regulations of their own that may require hospital-grade materials above and beyond what is required by code.

 

 Sources

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). (2023). NFPA 70 National Electrical Code 2023 (NEC). . NFPA.org. https://link.nfpa.org/publications/70/2023




Timothy Piehl

Written By:


Timothy Piehl, PE

Engineering Manager

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