Lockers: the ultimate guide
We talk a lot about patient privacy in the healthcare sector, which is obviously an important consideration – but what about privacy for healthcare workers and other staff within this sector?
Healthcare professionals and the teams that support them within hospital and care home environments often work long shifts with no opportunity to go ‘off site’ for their rest breaks. As such, it’s vital that they have well-equipped, comfortable and private spaces within the workplace where they can rest, eat and shower.
Since infection control is a high priority, these professionals usually wear a uniform and are unable to carry personal belongings with them while at work – therefore safe, secure storage is a key feature of any rest area, and that’s where lockers come in.
Why do healthcare staff need lockers?
There are two key reasons healthcare workers need lockers: security and infection control.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted just how easily pathogens from the outside world can be introduced into clinical environments on hands, clothing and footwear. For this reason, the vast majority of hospitals and care homes require that staff coming in for their shift change out of their own clothing into a uniform or medical scrubs that are either disposed of or laundered within the workplace after use.
Lockers provide compact, easy storage for employee clothing, ensuring items don’t get mixed up or lost. They also provide security for valuables including wallets, keys and phones since clinical staff are rarely able or permitted to carry these items with them while on duty. Unfortunately, thefts in hospitals and care homes are commonplace – a busy environment with lots of people coming and going provides ideal cover for opportunistic thieves to steal from staff and patients alike. Providing staff with secure facilities to keep their property safe means they can relax and get on with their work without feeling the need to worry or check up on their things.
What else are lockers used for?
Another primary use for lockers is the secure storage of patients’ personal effects. The majority of hospitals offer lockable bedside cabinets for patients to use but in cases where a patient is unable to assume responsibility for this – for example if they are incapacitated in the ER or ICU – then their property may need to be taken into secure safekeeping, and lockers provide a perfect solution. While non-admitted patients are normally asked to take responsibility for their own property, some hospitals do offer the option to use a locker for convenience, at the individual’s own risk.
Lockers may also be used to improve drug security in hospital pharmacies or where a patient is responsible for their own medicines.
What types of lockers are available?
Lockers vary in terms of size, design and materials, with different types being suited to different environments and applications. Lockers are normally supplied in ‘nests’ or blocks of 3 lockers that can be joined together to make a bank of lockers. Custom fillers can be incorporated to achieve a perfect fit for your space.
Within each nest you can have tier options of 1, 2 or 3 tiers. A 1 tier, or single tier, locker is a full-height unit ideal for storing everything from footwear and outdoor clothing to small, personal effects and normally has an internal compartment for keeping these small items safe. Some single tier lockers are split vertically on the inside so the user can divide up clean and dirty or work and home clothing.
2-tier lockers are half height, and 3-tier lockers are one-third height. These smaller lockers are ideal for staff with fewer or less bulky items to store, providing half-height hanging space with integral hooks. Mini or cubby lockers are also available for the secure storage of valuables and other small items.
What materials are lockers made from?
At Belroc, we offer lockers made from both powder-coated metal and plastic (HDPE). Metal lockers are an extremely durable, cost-effective and installer-friendly option that will provide many years of reliable performance. Made from steel coated in a resin-based, heat-cured powder, they are fire retardant and highly resistant to accidental or wilful damage as well as rust, mould and mildew. Powder coated metal surfaces are easy to wipe down, but may not be suitable for wet or humid environments such as shower rooms. They are available in a wide range of colours to co-ordinate with existing interior fixtures including toilet partitions.
Lockers made from HDPE are a more expensive option but offer total durability, low maintenance and peace of mind on hygiene. They are impact, scratch and dent resistant, and are immune to moisture-related problems such as rust, mould and mildew. They can be wiped, scrubbed or even hosed down and are ideal for wet rooms or even outdoor use. Our HDPE lockers are one of the only models on the market that are fully fire rated. HDPE has an added benefit in that the surface is naturally germ-resistant – one study showed that 98.4% of MRSA perished within 24 hours on an HDPE surface without the use of any cleaning products, giving this locker type a significant advantage in terms of infection control, particularly if staff don’t have an individually allocated locker.
Other features to consider
Look for lockers with a continuous, piano-style hinge that runs the full length of the door. This reduces the chance of hinge movement and problems with door closing in the longer term.
Locker latches can be single or multiple point – the more ‘points’ a latch has, the more difficult it is to force the door open and therefore the more secure the locker will be. However, multiple-point latches may not be suitable in very rugged environments where any impact or slight dents in the locker frame can prevent the latch points from engaging properly.
Adequate ventilation is vital for preventing odours and mildew inside your lockers but must be balanced against privacy and security since large ventilation holes may allow the locker contents to be seen. Vents may be on the door, or for a more streamlined look, integrated into the locker frame.
In busy environments, lockers can contribute to noise directly or indirectly. Look for lockers with rigid construction and quiet closure mechanisms to minimise door noise, and consider HDPE for its sound-absorbing qualities to reduce echo and reverb in busy corridors.
Safety & maintenance
As well as keeping their contents safe, it’s important that the locker itself is safe, particularly in healthcare facilities catering for people with complex mental or physical health needs. Look for lockers with ergonomically-designed handles and smooth edges to minimise the risk of injury and consider features like sloped tops that make cleaning easier as well as delivering anti-ligature design.
If you’re planning a locker installation but not sure where to begin, contact Belroc today – we’d be delighted to help.