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Keyes Life Safety

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Here’s What Happened…

by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Apr 1, 2021 1:00:00 AM

On Tuesday, March 30, we posted this picture of a vacuum pump in a hospital and asked you to speculate on what happened and what caused this situation.


We had many replies that were very good, but based on the information provided to me by an anonymous reader, here is what really happened:

“The medical gas community believes the major culprit was a negative pressure scavenger facemask being used in ICUs (mostly COVID patients). For the oxygen that does not get used by the patient, it gets pulled immediately and evacuated to Medical Vacuum inlets. Combine this with Anesthesia machines peak use from 8 – 10 am and you have high levels of oxidizers in the pipeline.”

The oxygen-enriched air being evacuated by the vacuum pump created a high-oxygen area inside the pump, and when mixed with the oil (which is combustible) used in the vacuum pump and the heat produced by the pump from excessive use, an explosion occurred that caused this failure of the pump.

If you have a picture of a strange situation in your healthcare facility, send it to me at, and perhaps we will use it on a future edition of What Happened.

Topics:Vacuum Pump

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