Health Professionals Warned of BOLS Explosion Hazard

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert to health care professionals for disposable, battery-operated lavage systems (BOLSs), which are used in the OR, ER, burn units, and nursing units.

According to reports, sparks, fires, toxic fumes, and explosions may occur when BOLS cables are cut. The cutting of the battery pack's cable can lead to a short circuit, causing the batteries to discharge rapidly, producing intense heat and flammable gases with a resulting explosion that expels flammable gases and toxic chemicals, endangering patients and staff.

To avoid the risk of sparks, fires, toxic fumes, and explosions:

  • Read the device manufacturer's labeling, paying particular attention to warnings. Manufacturers generally warn users not to cut the battery pack's cable to avoid electric shock, sparks, fire, or explosion. Some manufacturers put only one labeling booklet in a box with several BOLS devices, so make sure a copy of the labeling is placed with each device.
  • Don't remove used batteries or other used items from any patient-care setting for personal use. This practice is inconsistent with infection control guidelines.
  • Follow your facility's policy for disposing of batteries in accordance with appropriate state and local regulations. Most states don't require alkaline batteries to be discarded with hazardous material.
  • If a battery pack explodes, notify your facility's hazardous materials response team as soon as possible. Make sure the fumes and decomposition products don't contact anyone's eyes or skin and vapors aren't inhaled.
  • If battery materials contact someone's eyes, flush them with large amounts of tepid water for 30 minutes. Contact a physician at once.
  • If a battery leaks on a person's skin, irrigate the exposed area with large amounts of tepid water for at least 15 minutes. Contact a physician if irritation, pain, or injury persists.
  • If someone inhales vapors from a leaking battery, his respiratory passages may be irritated. Take him to an area with fresh air. Contact a physician if irritation continues.

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