This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.

Hazard summary

There is an increased risk of fire if IV bags (pressurized or unpressurized) are hung where there is the possibility of liquid leaking and dripping into an electrical outlet where equipment (such as an infusion or IV pump) is plugged in. Electrical outlets could be, for example, on a wall or articulating arm.

This is a fire hazard in health care settings and an immediate concern for the safety of workers.

Due to the possibility of leakage and potential for fire, employers should protect workers by ensuring that:

  • only IVs on pumps and/or attached to the patient should be hung on the articulating arms/IV poles
  • IV bags that are not attached to a patient should be clamped and removed from the area of the patient
  • any adapter for equipment, such as an IV pump, is flush with the outlet to eliminate any gaps for liquid to reach the outlet
  • measures and procedures are developed in writing, and in consultation with the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative (HSR) where required under O. Reg. 67/93, related to the prevention of fire hazards, including exposed electrical outlets, the safe locations of IV bags and ensuring that clamps are engaged when IV bags are not in use
  • fire prevention and fire response (Code Red) training that is specific to patient care settings is provided

Key legal requirements under the OHSA

The following are general legal requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations that apply to the prevention of fires.

General duties under the OHSA

An employer who is covered by the OHSA, has a range of legal duties. For example, under clause 25(2)(h) employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This may include protecting workers from fire hazards associated with IV fluids and electrical outlets.

Establish measures and procedures

In workplaces where O. Reg. 67/93 — Health Care and Residential Facilities applies, such as hospitals or long-term care homes, an employer must:

  • develop, establish and put into effect measures and procedures for the health and safety of workers and
  • put these measures and procedures into writing

The employer must do this in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if there is one), and consider their recommendations.

The measures and procedures may include:

  • safe work practices regarding the use of the clamping mechanism on the IV tubing and how to safely place IV bags in patient care areas on articulating arms and IV poles, including for example:
    • IV pumps that are not being used on a patient need to have the clamps engaged
    • the clamping mechanisms on tubing must be functioning and in good condition
  • measures and procedures regarding the proper use, maintenance and operation of equipment, including IV pumps

Employers must review and revise the measures and procedures at least once a year considering current knowledge and practice, or more frequently if:

  • the employer, on the advice of the JHSC or health and safety representative, if any, determines that a revision is necessary
  • there is a change in circumstances that may affect the health and safety of workers

Provide training and education

Employers must provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

Employers to whom O. Reg. 67/93 applies must also develop, establish and provide health and safety training and educational programs for workers on the measures and procedures that are relevant to the workers’ work, including those developed to minimize the risk of electrical outlet fires caused by leaking IV fluids, where applicable. Employers must develop, establish and provide the training and education programs in consultation with and in consideration of the recommendations of the JHSC or health and safety representative.

Training for workers who may be at risk should include information about:

  • the fire risks associated with unsafe placement of IV bags in proximity to all electrical outlets
  • the safe use and inspection of equipment in accordance with manufacturing specifications
  • procedures to prevent and respond to fires (including the use of fire extinguishers)

Precautions to consider

Employers should assess the potential risk of fire prior to work and ensure that workers are safe in patient care areas by:

  • avoiding placing IV bags near an electrical outlet or in other locations where the IV fluid may leak into an electrical outlet
  • checking to ensure that IV bags are not leaking, and not dripping
  • ensuring that equipment is used safely
  • conducting environmental safety checks on the equipment as needed, to see if ground fault circuit interrupter devices are required
  • ensuring that equipment, such as pumps, are plugged in so that they are flush with the outlet and there is no gap, mitigating the risk of fluid reaching an exposed outlet

Contact us

For more information about your duties under the OHSA, contact the Health and Safety Contact Centre:

Contact the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) for additional information, including:

Mention of any organization or tool does not mean the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) endorses them. Citations to websites external to the MLITSD do not constitute MLITSD endorsement of the organizations or their programs or products as OHSA compliant. The MLITSD is not responsible for the content of these websites.