December 29, 2009 | | Comments 1
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Problem areas within the hospital for chemical risks

When it comes to minimizing chemical risks in the environment of care, the lab and pharmacy are definitely areas that have experienced the greatest improvements over time.

To be fair, those areas should be evaluating such risks as a function of their OSHA chemical hygiene plan and hazard communications program (technically, pharmaceuticals don’t really fall under hazcomm, but there are chemical risks that need to be managed).

Other areas that can present challenges with chemical risks during a Joint Commission survey or OSHA inspection include:

  • Locations that handle equipment decontamination, particularly reusable devices
  • Areas that use sterilization chemicals, such as the OR, endoscopy, respiratory, central sterile, and ultrasound (frequently staff members in the ultrasound department perform disinfection in the exam rooms)
  • Boiler plants, which frequently employ caustics for cleaning and maintaining the boilers
  • Kitchens, particularly in the dish room and pot sink, because a lot of times the sanitizer being used is corrosive or caustic and occasionally splashes out

Entry Information

Filed Under: Environment of careOSHA


Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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  1. I believe pharmaceuticals are covered under the HazCom Standard with the following exceptions. They are exempt from the labeling requirement of the Standard when they are subject to the labeling requirements under either the Food and Drug Administration or the Department of Agriculture (1910.1200(b)(5)(iii).

    Additionally the standard does not cover any drug, when it is in solid, final form for direct administration to the patient (e.g., tablets or pills); drugs which are packaged by the chemical manufacturer for sale to consumers in a retail establishment (e.g., over-the-counter drugs); and drugs intended for personal consumption by employees while in the workplace (e.g., first aid supplies)(1910.1200(b)(6)(vii). If the drug must be split or crushed to be administered, it is not in direct, final form.

    Also, chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors need not provide material safety data sheets to retail distributors that have informed them that the retail distributor does not sell the product to commercial accounts or open the sealed container to use it in their own workplaces. 1910.1200(g)(7)(vii)

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