In the glossy photos of new furniture, both Healthcare grade furniture and residential look very exciting and even similar but there are some very big differences when it comes down to the detail of construction that is often missed at the time of purchase.
These details are what present risks. Below are actual photos taken of chairs found in hospitals in Canada.
There is really only one type of material that is suited for the harsh cleaning in the Healthcare and that is specific vinyls. Leather, suede, fabric and other common residential upholstery are porous and cannot be cleaned thoroughly from infectious contaminates. Additionally, they will quickly wear through with the typical peroxide, bleach or alcohol based cleaners exposing the foam beneath. At this point, the chair becomes a sponge and is a clear risk for infection control.
The Canadian Hospitals recognize that wood is a also a porous material that cannot be cleaned thoroughly. Although some products may have a heavy lacquer coating on them, it is only a matter of time until the cleaners penetrate the coating, exposing another surface for contamination.
Health grade furniture is typically fabricated using heavier duty construction than your typical residential products. There will be a lot more metal in the Healthcare chair while it is common to find plywood structures in residential. Plywood will weaken with exposure to fluids over time and potentially break down.
Healthcare furniture must be fire rated to at least TB117 rating which provides a level of fire retardant to the foam. Most manufacturers will also offer CAL 133 which is a higher standard and adds another level of safety in the event of a fire.
INGRESS AND EGRESS
Healthcare seating is usually a little firmer, sits you up straighter and has arms that can be used by the elderly, weak or disabled to get in and out of the chair. The design should also allow for putting full body weight on the arms without the risk of the chair tipping or sliding away.
In summary, the three biggest safety risks come down to Infection Control, Structural Soundness and Fire safety. Consider the hospital or seniors home for a moment and what the seating is exposed to. Its a perfect place for infection to transfer through hand contact and bodily fluids so it is imperative that it can be effectively cleaned.
The structural soundness is also a liability, should the chair be weakened through the cleaning process or an unspecified weight capacity. Healthcare seating should always be specified for weight capacity.
In regards to fire safety, here is an news article worth reading. The burning foam in the furniture caused so much black smoke, it partially blocked an exit in a senior living fire. That is why many States have adopted the stricter CAL 133 regulation in the U.S.A..