Reducing infection in healthcare with cable management

Richard Rands, UK product manager for Fastenings & Fixings at HellermannTyton explains the importance of correct cable management in healthcare environments and how a range of easy to use products will help achieve more efficient care and reduce the chance of transferring bacteria

of infected COVID-19 patients needing medical care, which stands at significantly more than 300,000 at the time of writing. The sheer volume of patient traffic raises a number of issues, with few more pertinent than that of the transmission and prevention of infection. Controlling the spread of infection added to this stress for health estate managers and the scale of COVID-19 has reinforced the need for effective measures. As it stands, cable management can be an


aspect often overlooked around hospital beds and is often an afterthought. However, safely securing cables should be central to any discussion around best practice in bedside hygiene, on the grounds that this can significantly reduce the spread of infection. The electrical cables used to power medical devices, as well as the tubes and pipes that are commonplace in medical equipment such as ventilators, are a potential breeding ground for viruses and bacteria which, if standards of cleanliness are not adhered to, can increase the likelihood of infection.


It’s vital that any cable management solutions used are flexible and easy to secure and dismantle, in order to allow fast moving actions to occur when an emergency takes place. Hygiene, safety and identification of equipment

and infrastructure are mandatory in the healthcare sector. Consequently, cable management products that support these requirements are essential accessories. For example, magnetic fasteners allow cables to be held securely when needed, but can be disconnected with minimal effort. Releasable cable ties are not only ideal for

temporarily securing cables and tubes and keeping items off the floor for hygiene purposes but can also offer easy application where a bag or packet needs to be closed and re-opened. As more patients bring devices of their own into

the equation, this places additional burden on medical staff, who may be required to pick up cables which have fallen onto the floor on behalf of patients who are bed bound or have limited mobility. While this may seem insignificant, it amounts to an additional task which takes personnel away from the critical task of caring for patients. When one patient vacates a bed, a routine

discharge clean is undertaken to prepare the bed for the next occupant. For this to take place, equipment needs to be detached and removed

ecently we have all been subject to the global pandemic, COVID-19, which has seen our NHS pushed to its limits due to the number

any measure which reduces the impact of poor hospital hygiene, both from a financial and patient care standpoint. HellermannTyton is often approached by NHS Trusts and other healthcare providers to deliver cable management solutions designed specifically to reduce infection. A Hospice based in the UK was experiencing a

growing need for cable management due to the increasing number of wires surrounding beds and turned to HellermannTyton for help. Messy cables posed a challenge to the hospice

prior to cleaning, therefore the ideal system needs to be quickly releasable, saving time and boosting productivity. Furthermore, a system would need to be re-usable, providing the correct cleaning procedures were strictly adhered to.


The type of material used within cable management devices is also often overlooked. The use of specialist materials that are designed to perform up to very high temperatures whilst also offering excellent chemical resistance is vital in order to prevent infection from spreading. Some products are also suitable for autoclaving or gamma irradiation sterilisation whilst others encompass anti-microbial properties. Strict sterilisation and cleaning processes are

implemented within the healthcare system in order to provide sterile and bacteria free areas for patients in need of treatment. Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) is an ideal

material to use when it comes to cable management within healthcare; its blended polymers provide high strength resistance and flexibility – giving cable ties made from TPE excellent tear and abrasion resistance. Not only does the material need to be robust and

strong, it also needs to be chemical resistant to be able to withstand the powerful cleaning agents used in hospitals. If not, chemical corrosion could reduce performance and create rough surfaces which harbour bacteria and increase the risk of contamination and infection. Printed cable ties, ID tags and security seals are

also highly recommended as they are ideal for the secure closure and traceability of bags containing biological/medical waste or for use on medical equipment trolleys. They can also be used for securing cabinets containing sensitive products or materials or for identifying the tubes or cords on respirators and other equipment. Given the scale of the issue, which varies

between NHS Trusts, it makes sense to investigate 22 ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING • JULY/AUGUST 2020

because, if not secured, these loose wires and cables – both for medical and non-medical devices – were a trip hazard for patients and staff. There was also a major risk of cables being damaged by the wheels of beds during transit. The hospice quickly realised that solving this

cable management conundrum also had an impact on infection control. Initially, other solutions were considered including the use of Velcro fastenings to secure cables, but it soon became apparent that these types of products were unsuitable for such environments. As part of the development of the Cable Koala,

working with the Innovation Team within one of the UK’s regional NHS Trusts, HellermannTyton investigated various options for securing bedside wires, cables and tubes, including the use of similar ‘hook and loop’ fastenings. However, the rough texture of these materials provides a potential breeding ground for bugs and bacteria. It was for this reason that HellermannTyton designed the Cable Koala. The magnetic cable tie is manufactured using a

soft, flexible TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) material that delivers a smooth surface and is free from any indentations. This design prevents the build-up of undesirable bacteria. The result is a simple to use product that is compatible with the typical cleaning agents and chemicals used within hospitals and hospices, and with a quick release design the Cable Koala can be reused time and time again once cleaned.


Now many industries are starting to adapt back to their usual ways of working after the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which will now include PPE. Seeing what the healthcare industry has been battling over the past months, HellermannTyton has been researching and developing a range of healthcare products which are suitable for healthcare environments.


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