Words Matter: Understanding patient vicinity and patient space per the NEC

Krista Biason, PE
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If there is one thing I have learned while dealing with codes, it is that words do matter. A simple word like "shall" means something very different than the phrase "shall be permitted," a distinction that if missed often leads to confusion regarding implementation of a code.

One of the more prevalent misunderstandings I see is the interpretation of patient vicinity versus patient care space. Both include the word "patient," so they mean the same thing, right? Wrong. "Patient vicinity" is defined in NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code and reiterated by Art. 517.2 in NFPA 70: National Electric Code (NEC) as "a space, within a location intended for the examination and treatment of patients, extending 1.8 m (6ft) beyond the normal location of the patient bed, chair, table, treadmill, or other device that supports the patient during examination and treatment and extending vertically to 2.3 m (7ft, 6 in) above the floor." So, in simple terms, the patient vicinity is the area within the wingspan of the patient. This definition is intended not only for inpatient functions but also for outpatient services, and is not just limited to a hospital bed location.

Read the full article published by EC&M.

Topics: Healthcare, Engineering


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Krista is an electrical engineer with more than 20 years' experience specializing in healthcare electrical design. More >

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