It is compulsory for all medical establishments to follow specific instructions for the sterilization of working environments and instruments in order to protect both the medical staff and third parties from the risk of contamination from biological agents. The requirements play an indispensable part in the prevention and protection processes for staff in the workplace. They ensure that safety and hygiene standards are met, thus safeguarding the health of staff and consequently both direct and indirect users of the services.
Medical clinics, hospitals and veterinary centres must comply with the sterilization guidelines laid down in Italian Legislative Decree 81/2008 (as amended). The same applies for dental practices, where it is crucial for employers to be methodical when putting into practice all of the sterilization standards and procedures necessary so that working environments and instruments can be handled and decontaminated and all of the health risks associated with the job can be eliminated.
In a dental practice, all of the disinfection and sterilization procedures are based on chemical or chemical/physical methods used to inactivate and destroy any pathogenic micro-organisms on the instruments. If chemical substances are used, it is necessary to take into account the level of toxicity of the sterilization product being used and assess it in comparison with its efficacy.
According to Italian Legislative Decree 81/2008 (as amended), one of the simplest but most effective decontamination methods is using special autoclaves that reach temperatures of over 180°C, thereby destroying all of the micro-organisms on the dental instruments. Every dental practice must carry out a Vacuum test on a daily basis in order to ensure that the equipment in use is genuinely capable of creating a vacuum in the autoclave chamber.
Vacuum tests reveal whether sterilizing autoclaves are running properly by highlighting any pump malfunctions and air leaks in the door seal or the pipe fittings, while also checking the tightness of the solenoid valves and ensuring that the preset vacuum limits on each machine are reached.
There is usually a specific preset cycle for these tests on high-tech dental autoclaves that lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes. During the Vacuum test cycle, a vacuum is created inside the dental sterilization chamber and the air leakage rate must be within the limits established by the rules. If the autoclave passes the test, it will give a positive result which must then be recorded in the maintenance section of the sterilization log.
Every dental practice is required by law to ensure that the working environments and instruments used are properly sterilized, thus guaranteeing that they are fully decontaminated and protecting the health and safety of both the medical staff and the patients. A Vacuum test is a means of checking that the sterilization process is running properly. In order for this to happen, everything must be in perfect working order in the dental autoclaves, which are used every day to inactivate the micro-organisms that contaminate instruments.