Portable Electric Fans in Healthcare Settings - The Cleaning and Management of

Publication: 29/05/2020  
Next review: 01/09/2026  
Clinical Guideline
ID: 6453 
Approved By: Trust Clinical Guidelines Group 
Copyright© Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2023  


This Clinical Guideline is intended for use by healthcare professionals within Leeds unless otherwise stated.
For healthcare professionals in other trusts, please ensure that you consult relevant local and national guidance.

The Cleaning and Management of Portable Electric Fans in Healthcare Settings

Summary of Guideline

An NHS safety alert circulated in January 2019, identified that portable fans used in clinical areas have been linked to cross infection in health and social care facilities. This guideline provides a risk assessment to be undertaken to support the clinical teams when the requirement of a portable fan has been identified and guidance on the use of fans in clinical areas.

Information on how to clean a portable fan can be found in Appendix 1. Only staff that have received appropriate training can carry out the procedure of cleaning a fan at LTHT.

To prevent cross contamination by micro-organisms that could cause infection when using a portable fan within the clinical area.

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Portable fan

A portable fan is a cord-connected appliance that is easily moved by hand from place to place which is a powered machine used to create movement of air. Portable fans consist of desk/table fans, floor fans and clip-on fans. 

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Bladeless portable fans have been linked to healthcare associated infection. Dust and debris can naturally accumulate within the body of bladeless fans and this will provide a reservoir for micro-organisms.

There is currently no evidence that conventional bladed fans disperse micro-organisms in the same way. However the electric motors in these fans are air cooled and, in a similar way to bladeless fans, dust and debris can accumulate within the motor housing. A similar reservoir of micro-organisms may therefore be created and entrained in the airflow. As a precautionary measure they may be considered equally implicated. Consequently, all portable fans are deemed a risk for cross contamination and within scope of the NHS safety alert.

Health Protection Scotland, following an investigation in consultation with a manufacturer, concluded a potential risk of bladeless fans, risk of infection to patients and a lack of appropriate decontamination guidance from the manufacturer.

In the UK, very few hospitals have air-conditioning. In conditions of extreme heat, fans may be useful to assist in patient and staff comfort and regulation of body temperature. They achieve this through circulating airflow to create a breeze. Although there is no published evidence that electric fans spread infection, they may pose a risk through dispersal of airborne microorganisms, debris and dust, or through disturbing the normal or expected airflow in a clinical setting.

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Responsibility for cleaning fans

The decontamination of fans consists of two elements - the discharge clean and the daily clean.

The decontamination of fans for the daily clean is the responsibility of the non-clinical support worker. If the non-clinical support worker is not on duty the fan should be labeled as non-clean and stored in the designated cleaning area until decontamination can take place.

The decontamination of fans on discharge is the responsibility of the cleaning response team.

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Use of fans in the clinical setting

Where possible please use bladed fans that have clips to hold the fan guard in place.
If you have fans with screws please aim to utilise in the  non clinical areas,
When purchasing new fans please order the fans that have clips to hold the fan guard in place.

Prior to commencing use of a portable fan confirm:

  • The use of fans is not prohibited by the healthcare facility
  • Alternative cooling methods have been attempted with no success
  • The patient is in a non-restricted use location
  • The use of a fan is determined to be of benefit to the patient’s clinical condition or comfort
  • A risk assessment has been performed (please see Appendix 2)

Portable fans should NOT be used in the following situations:

  • In high-risk areas including operating rooms, critical care units, transplant units, dialysis units
  • In areas where immunocompromised patients receive care, for example, oncology units
  • A patient in source isolation
  • In rooms with directed airflow e.g. positive or negative pressure rooms
  • In areas where sterile supplies are stored or where medical device reprocessing occurs, for example, hospital sterile services department, endoscopy units

If a portable fan is sanctioned for use the following tips may be used:

Position -

  • Position the fan so airflow is directed at the patient
  • Position fan on a clean surface at the patient’s bed level or higher
  • Ensure airflow is not directed towards the door of the room or across environmental surfaces. The direction of flow should be upwards toward the ceiling, avoiding smoke detectors
  • Ensure airflow is not blowing directly on burned skin, burn dressings, open wounds or directly into the patient’s face
  • In non-patient areas, such as healthcare staff stations, ensure airflow is directed within the area

Ensure the fan is switched off when -

  • a sterile field or aseptic procedure is required e.g. cannulation, wound dressing or catheterisation
  • Any procedure that may involve body fluid exposure is undertaken.

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Appendix 1

Cleaning of a bladed Fan

  • Do not use polishes as this may invalidate the manufacture’s warranty.

Cleaning Preparation

  • Switch off and unplug item from the mains socket and allow cooling before proceeding. Check for any faults/ damages.
  • Open blade guard to either release the clip holding the guard in place or if it has a small screw take the screw out with a screw driver.  

Equipment Required

  • Soft brush on suction machine
  •  Screw driver

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Cleaning procedure

  1. Pre-soak appropriate cloth or dry wipe with a chlorine based solution or chlorine wipes clean and wring out ensuring that the cloth is just dampened.
  2. Gently wipe each of the blades and the fan grill being careful to ensure that excess dust and debris in the air inlets and loop amplifier with a soft brush on a suction machine.
  3. With the just dampened appropriate cloth, clean from the highest point working downwards. Pay particular attention to any grooves, blades, undersides and clean the base finishing with the raised buttons.
  4. Completely dry all equipment with paper towels to remove and moisture.
  5. Replace Guard by either closing clip or replacing screw into the holding clip.
  6. Plug the fan into the socket and test item and then unplug.
  7. Follow and comply with cleaning methodology on completion of task.

If the fan is damaged - report and agree disposal route with the ward manager.

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Appendix 2. Risk assessment

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Record: 6453
  • The safe usage of portable fans in the clinical area
  • To ensure all staff undertake a risk assessment for the use of portable fans within the clinical area.
  • The correct cleaning of the portable fan to reduce the burden of micro-organism takes place.
  • To ensure all staff employed at LTHT who undertake the cleaning of a portable fan have received training and demonstrate competence.
Clinical condition:

Infection Prevention

Target patient group: All patients
Target professional group(s): Allied Health Professionals
Secondary Care Doctors
Secondary Care Nurses
Tertiary care teams
Adapted from:

Evidence base


  1. NHS Safety Alert Feb 2019 Portable Fans in Health care Facilities
  2. Guidelines for the use of portable Electric fans Healthcare Setting. 2018: Health Service Executive. Feidhmeannacht na Seirbhise Slainte.
  3. Health Protection Scotland (HPS) Position Statement [Final] August 2018
  4. SBAR: Portable Cooling Fans (Blade & Bladeless) for use in clinical areas. Health Protection Scotland.

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Approved By

Trust Clinical Guidelines Group

Document history

LHP version 1.0

Related information

Not supplied

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