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All Washed Up: Stainless Steel Surgical Sinks Drain Contaminants

Stainless steel surgical sinks are designed with patient and user safety, sanitation and infection control in mind. They are also designed to provide ease of use, durability, and convenience. The stainless steel surgical sinks, scrub sinks, and lavatory sinks play a major role in preventing the spread of contaminants in many industries, ranging from hospital operating rooms to restaurants to public restrooms. Each of the many features of the specialty surgical sinks made of stainless steel have one focus: reducing the spread of bacteria, viruses, and nosocomial infections due to exposure to pathogens like staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.

Effective Cleansing of a Major Source of Micro-organisms: Skin

Stainless steel surgical sinks were developed to minimize the spread of any kind of contaminant that could exist on skin or is in the water used for handwashing. In the hospital setting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one out of every 25 hospital patients has a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). These are infections that are preventable through activities like effective hand-washing and high quality instrument cleaning in autoclaves.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the CDC have identified five highly infective pathogens that are easily transmitted by food workers. They have familiar names like Norovirus and Hepatitis A virus. Handwashing is a critical practice for people like surgeons in operating rooms, restaurant workers handling food, daycare workers caring for infants and young children, laboratory workers, and others.

Stainless steel surgical sinks, stainless steel lavatory sinks, and stainless steel scrub sinks make a significant contribution to the reduction of infections and illness transmitted via skin. This is due to the stainless steel material, design and features. These sinks are not just found in healthcare facilities. They are used wherever it is critical to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. The stainless steel sinks are installed in hospitals, clinics, physician offices, veterinary clinics, restaurants, office and public buildings, laboratories, industrial facilities, university dining facilities and science classrooms. They are also purchased for use in facilities interested in purchasing a durable sink that will not chip or crack from heavy use.

Points to Consider when Selecting Stainless Steel

Medical grade stainless steel sinks have many unique qualities. Most are made of Stainless Steel 304 which has high strength, low carbon content and high corrosion resistance. This makes it particularly suitable for surgical sinks, scrub sinks and lavatories where the minimization of chemical reactions with the body (particularly skin) is important and the units get high usage.

There is a variety of stainless steel surgical sinks available today. Some points to consider first when considering the purchase of stainless steel sinks include:

  • Available space for sink installation – sinks are made in various sizes
  • Intended use – i.e. surgical sinks are used in a variety of healthcare and non-healthcare settings; lavatory sinks for public facility installation should have high vandal resistance; scrub sinks are specifically designed for ultimate sanitation in the operating room or other medical settings where the risk of infection is high
  • Installation – depending on the sink, it is installed on a finished wall, sits on legs or is mounted on a pedestal base
  • Stainless steel grade – Stainless Steel 304 is the best material choice for most applications; the other most common stainless steel grade for sinks available in the market is Stainless Steel 316 which contains molybdenum and has higher resistance to salts, acids and chlorine
  • Budget – the larger the sink and the more features it has, the more expensive the unit will be

Wealth of Features

The large variety of designs in stainless steel surgical sinks reflects their functionality. Depending on the particular surgical, lavatory and/or scrub sinks selected, the typical features include:

  • Stainless steel construction – i.e. bowl, panels, backsplash, tubular legs, welded gussets
  • Medical grade stainless steel –  Stainless Steel type 304 or 316
  •  Adjustable impact resistant plastic feet
  • Hemmed on the roll and backsplash to eliminate potential injuries
  • Faucet hole placement and size – i.e. 18 inch o.c.
  • Backsplash height
  • Splash prevention – scrub sink design should minimize splashing
  • Hands-free water and soap control
  • Desired water temperature – controlled mixing of hot and cold water to maintain optimum temperature
  • Water flow control
  • Ease of cleaning – i.e. continuous welded compartments for sanitation and anti-contamination
  • Miscellaneous features – i.e. self-draining soap dish, sound deadening materials
  • The industry also offers stainless steel surgical sinks that have features like digital scrubbing timers, infrared sensors that turn water on and off, eye wash station attachments and foot pump soap dispenser. These kinds of features can significantly increase the price of the sink.

Stainless Steel Sink Options

Buyers will find there are many design and feature options in stainless steel surgical sinks. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Sink style – lavatory sinks, surgical sinks, scrub sinks
  • Number of compartments – 1 to 4 compartments
  • Compartment or bowl width – 18 to 30 inches
  • Compartment or bowl length – 18 to 48 inches
  • Unit width – 21.5 inch; except scrub sinks with multiple stations are 32-94 inches because each station has soap and water areas
  • Unit length – 21 to 51 inches
  • Drainboards – 1 or 2
  • Drainboard location - right and/or left of bowl or compartment
  • Leg height – 18.5 inches
  • Backsplash height
  • Water turn on – i.e. knee operated front panel, faucets

Quality Counts

Effective handwashing is important to minimize the transfer of contaminants from hands to patients or clients, food or other surfaces that multiple organizations have addressed the topic. They include the CDC, the Association of Surgical Technologists, the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the FDA and a host of food handling organizations, to name a few.

Stainless steel surgical sinks are major contributors to effective handwashing and the minimization of contamination due to water splashing because of intentional designs. The key is to always purchase sinks that are high quality from a reliable vendor.