Sterile matters: Keep your lungs happy using chemicals

By: August 12th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Every day healthcare workers have the potential of becoming exposed to chemical vapors. Depending on the type of chemical, concentration, ventilation, length of exposure, and task  affects the severity of risk and/or injury to the workers, patients, visitors or yourself. This is nothing to take lightly. Equally, it is imperative we not only understand the chemicals we use day and day out, but that we understand the risks, the ways to reduce our risk for exposure through mitigations and any regulation with its use or storage. Also, how we respond if an exposure does occur, needs to also be apart of the plan and training.

Understanding and applying basic safety principles, along with strictly following the manufacturer’s instructions, will help to mitigate becoming exposed to potentially harmful chemicals, in particular, inhalants. This is because not every chemical behaves in the same way.

Some fast facts:

  • Some chemical gases require environmental monitoring.
  • Some chemicals require monitory of breathing zones, to ensure workings are not exceeding limits.
  • Exposure limits vary depending on the chemical.

These are just a couple of facts that can greatly impact how your department or facility plans, monitors and responds to chemical transportation, usage, storage and responds to emergencies of spills and/or exposure.

Keeping your lungs happy (and your whole body) really means keeping yourself current with the chemicals particulars and instructions, general regulations and standards and then following the guidance to a “T”,  all of the time. So, read up on the chemicals you use. Review OHSA requirements and make sure you are in complete compliance.

Finally, ask for help if you are unclear about what your responsibilities are…your lungs and everyone else’s you work with or lead may not thank you, but you will know you are doing the right thing.


as a school nurse i am often asked by a parent to allow them to speak to their sick child on my phone. until recently i have always politely refused and felt the parent understood that i could not expose myself.
then i met with an irate very angry parent who took her demands to school administration.
but other nurses i work with feel a sani wipe is suffiecient to clean the mouthpc of the phone after allowing a child to speak on it. i do not feel a wipe can remove anything from within the vents inside the mouthpc where i will next be inhaling.
i have also gone over the directions for these wipes and the lysol spray we use to sanitize. both suggest waiting for the surface to dry, (so i imagine that it either takes several minutes to sanitize or the drying process sanitizes the surface. i even saw that it is recommended that toys be wiped, left to dry and then washed with soap and water.)
this waiting makes it impossible to return to the conversation with the parent after the child hands the phone back to me.
i do not want to inhale over the mouthpc after it has been used by a feverish child or someone who has just vomited. i also do not care to put my face on a wet sani cloth surface.
what resources do you have that i can quote to drive home my point.
i demanded a speaker phone. my colleagues thinks im a “phobe”.

Good reminder, but we also use many of these same chemicals (and some a lot worse) at home. I see people buying all sorts of disinfectants without really knowing what they are, what is really needed and how to use it.

We try to provide our employees with the safest and most effective products. Something that most folks don’t think about when they go to the supermarket.


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