How to make "Red Wagon" made from wood OK in hospital concerned about infection?

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Forum topic by GJK posted 05-18-2016 02:17 AM 2366 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View GJK's profile


27 posts in 1355 days

05-18-2016 02:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: clown red wagon non-infectious finishes

For over 20 years, my wife and I have volunteered as hospital clowns. We focus on serving Wounded Warriors and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. We also clown at pediatric units of hospitals where we seek to ease the pains and fears of seriously ill children.

Recently, we saw a TV news show and accompanying NY Times article about a grandfather, Roger Leggett, who with his son modified a plastic (or metal) little red wagon so that his granddaughter, Felicity, who was being treated for cancer could be cheered up while moving around the hospital with her IV and monitors. His modified wagon was a great hit and the idea spread to over a dozen other hospitals.

As a LUMBERJOCK and CLOWN, I saw an opportunity to do a similar good deed by creating or modifying a wagon. I found online a well-made, wooden Red Wagon called the Berlin Flyer, made by Amish people in Ohio.

All the woodworking and finishing is done in their factory… AMERICAN MADE!! My plan, subject to the company’s agreement, was to seek to buy a few sets of wheels and bolt packs and then as a LUMBERJOCK make some wagons myself to be donated to local hospitals.

I forwarded the idea with photos to a local hospital where we have often clowned and where my wife saw a wagon with a pediatric oncology patient being pulled by her father. I was surprised to receive a polite but negative response:

“Unfortunately we cannot use these wagons. Our wagons have to be plastic to pass our infection prevention rules.”

Do any of you more experienced Lumberjocks know of a way I might refinish (over the wonderful finish the Amish applied) to create a wagon less susceptible (allegedly) to infection that might be more acceptable to the hospital?

-- Gary, Washington, DC

13 replies so far

View GerryB's profile


69 posts in 2550 days

#1 posted 05-18-2016 02:40 AM

How about painting it with gel-coat? I used it over ply to make a water tank.

-- The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time. Edwin Bliss

View Picken5's profile


250 posts in 2660 days

#2 posted 05-18-2016 03:30 AM

I’d guess that the hospital is concerned that the natural pores in the wood make it difficult to effectively sanitize a wooden wagon. You might offer to completely coat/paint over the current paint job with polyurethane since the FDA has determined that clear wood finishes that dry to a hard film, including polyurethane, are considered food safe once they’re fully cured. And a thick-ish coat of polyurethane should effectively fill any pores. Just a thought…

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 1421 days

#3 posted 05-18-2016 03:38 AM

Fresh cut wood is sterile. All finishes are food safe since lead was eliminated in the 70’s.

Its not wood that is the problem, its what you spill.


-- Madmark -

View wood2woodknot's profile


93 posts in 1942 days

#4 posted 05-18-2016 03:58 AM

I would make a comparison to the food industry….....the problem is probably more of all the crevices that need to be sanitized. The plastic wagons are basically one continuous, easy to clean surface. Every little end cut, crevice, and overlapping part in a wood wagon is a collection and breeding point for bacteria. Sanitizing would be very time consuming and difficult at best to do completely. Infection control even has concerns about the seams and hemmed edges of bed sheets that go through their commercial washers.

-- ajh

View dhazelton's profile


2756 posts in 2265 days

#5 posted 05-18-2016 10:24 AM

Use the Trex-like plastic decking material. It’ll probably cost more than buying a plastic wagon, though.

View hotbyte's profile


991 posts in 2944 days

#6 posted 05-18-2016 11:30 AM

Another possible alternate material would be King Starboard which is basically large HDPE sheets up to 1-1/2 in thick. I’m sure there are also other “brands” out there.

View CB_Cohick's profile


484 posts in 1219 days

#7 posted 05-18-2016 03:11 PM

I think you are going to find yourself in a battle you can’t win. Getting a policy exception for a wagon is unlikely. My opinion is that you should invest in a plastic wagon. That wooden wagon is neat though :-)

-- Chris - Would work, but I'm too busy reading about woodwork.

View johnstoneb's profile


2871 posts in 2141 days

#8 posted 05-18-2016 03:35 PM

The best place to get a bad infection is the hospital and all hospitals are fighting that.
As wood2wood that wagon just has too many places for dirt, grime, and moisture to hide. It’s a nice wagon and would be great for outside. It would be impossible to clean for a hospital environment.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View OnhillWW's profile


129 posts in 1201 days

#9 posted 05-18-2016 09:30 PM

Wood2woodknot has it right. I am a certified sterile processor, we prep the (instruments and implants used in a hospital). The item needs to be wiped down daily at a minimum and made of approved materials, i.e. nonporous and not react to decontaminating compounds. You have great intentions however I’m sure you would not want the unintended consequence to be spreading an infection or contaminating a child with a compromised immune system.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View GJK's profile


27 posts in 1355 days

#10 posted 05-18-2016 10:05 PM

I want to thank each of you who replied so far. I have learned a lot!

I’m keen to meet/exceed the hospital’s standards!

I agree with Johnstoneb who said, “The best place to get a bad infection is the hospital and all hospitals are fighting that.” and I agree with OnhillWW who said, “I’m sure you would not want the unintended consequence to be spreading an infection or contaminating a child with a compromised immune system.” I’m not quite ready (YET) to give up my role completely and move to CB_Cohick’s suggestion that “invest in a plastic wagon.”

I wonder how Wood2woodknot, Johnstoneb, OnmhillWW and others would react to dhazelton and hotbyte’s suggestion of obtaining the steel framing and wheels from others and SWAPPING OUT the Amish prepped wood for some type of plastic—e.g. KING STARBOARD (among other brands) that I (and others) might prep to the same shape/design. The manufacturer (KING PLASTIC) alleges:

Antimicrobial *Many of King Plastic Corporation’s polymer sheets, slabs and massive shapes are upgradable to King MicroShield® with an exclusive antimicrobial additive, the latest technology for protecting the product surface against stain and odor causing bacteria, algae and fungi.”

-- Gary, Washington, DC

View johnstoneb's profile


2871 posts in 2141 days

#11 posted 05-19-2016 02:44 AM

The problem isn’t so much the material as the construction methods. you will still have glue joints and overlaps that you can’t be sure are totally sealed so nothing can get in them. When sterilizing you can’t be sure the sterilant got in there either. The plastic wagons are generally roto or blow molded in one piece with rounded edges and corners. Steel framing would have to be at the very least stainless.

More and more infections are being caused by drug resistant microbes and the only way to fight them is to prevent the infection to begin with. you need to get with the hospital ans see if you can design something that will meet or exceed their requirements.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View MrRon's profile


4720 posts in 3212 days

#12 posted 05-19-2016 05:07 PM

In a hospital environment, porous surfaces found on bedding, gowns, etc, can be sanitized easily by washing. A wagon, even one made of plastic is not easily sanitized. It would take a lot of time to try and sanitize something with moving parts, something I don’t think hospital workers would appreciate.

View ohtimberwolf's profile


785 posts in 2321 days

#13 posted 05-22-2016 01:12 PM

To sanitize something is a job that is relatively easy to do. However, to sterilize it is another matter.

Even the smallest of gathering places, no matter how difficult to reach, must be reached effectively. The more Joints and seams or corners and so on that exist will make the job much more difficult if not impossible to do regardless of the material used. You are probably fighting an up hill battle at best.

You and your wife have a big heart and I salute you both but I have little hope that you can succeed in conquering their fear of doing harm to the child and a large lawsuit. Thanks for your service.

-- Just a barn cat, now gone to cat heaven.

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