Specialised refrigerators are used for the storage of pharmaceutical products and are essential for the storage of vaccines and diluents. Ordinary domestic refrigerators are unsuitable and must never be used. Food, drink and clinical specimens must never be stored in the same refrigerator as vaccines. Opening of the refrigerator door should be kept to a minimum to maintain as constant a temperature as possible. The refrigerator temperature gauge should be clearly visible to read without the need to open the refrigerator door.
The following points should be checked in order to provide adequate refrigerating conditions for critical products such as vaccines:
- The product must have a serial number.
- The refrigerator is regularly checked for electrical safety. Electrical systems must be maintained under the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989).
- The refrigerator must be lockable – this is a requirement for POMs (prescription only medicines).
- The product must be the correct size to meet storage needs, ie. there must be enough room around the products stored for air to circulate properly.
- The refrigerator must be placed in a suitable environment, ie. ventilated and away from heat sources.
- Ice is not building up in the refrigerator – immediate defrosting required and critical products removed to a stable temperature environment elsewhere.
- There should be a maintenance contract in place to cover annual servicing and recalibration of the temperature gauge.
- Care should be taken to ensure continued supply of electricity, through use of a switchless socket or clear labelling of the refrigerator plug.