Healthcare employers warned of hazardous drug risks

By: April 11th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

OSHA, NIOSH, and The Joint Commission have issued a letter to hospitals and healthcare employers warning of the serious job-related risks that hazardous drugs pose to healthcare workers, according to an April 7 OSHA news release.

Drugs used in chemotherapy, antiviral treatments, hormone regimens, and other applications may cause irreversible effects from work-related exposures even at low levels.

Those potentially exposed include “workers who handle, dispense, mix, apply, and dispose of them without proper controls and training,” according to the letter.

When present in the workplace, these hazards must be identified as part of the written Hazard Communication plan, readily available and accessible to all including temporary workers, contractors, and trainees, according to the letter.

The three organizations call for healthcare facilities to address safe drug handling by:

  1. Committing management staff to taking a leadership role in worker safety and health
  2. Offering opportunities for meaningful employee participation in efforts to identify and remediate hazards, develop and offer training, and evaluate injury and illness prevention programs for continuous improvement

As resources for employers, the notification lists NIOSH and OSHA publications and web pages:

Medical Environment Update and the OSHA Program Manual have more on hazardous drug safety for medical and dental practices. Click on the link below to subscribe/purchase.

Get into compliance with HCPro’s Basic OSHA Compliance Manual Kits for medical or dental practices. Receive bimonthly electronic manual updates through your newsletter subscription that keep your regulatory manual up to date and in compliance!


By Bruce Cunha on April 12th, 2011 at 9:38 am

It sure would be nice if NIOSH could do a bit more than give warnings on a topic that they themselves do not have any current scientific data on. I thought NIOSh was supposed to do the science behind these issues? How come the majority of studies done on the health effects of these agents are all from the 1980′ and 90’s, prior to new PPE and safety standards being put in place? Why can’t NIOSH simply repeat some of the studies done and see if there still are the same issues?

How come NIOSH is not assisting in coming up with laboratory testing we can use to identify if we have contamination? Or definitive lab tests we can use to see if exposures are occurring?

We have made all the training/protocol/procedural changes recommended. But when staff read items like this, it still raises a lot of issues with them. And I don’t blame them. Just more work for us assuring employees that if they are following safety protocol, there is very low risk of exposure.

Lets get some help with processes/programs that will really help the employees assure they are not being exposed.

By Diana Tesh on April 13th, 2011 at 11:41 am

I agree with Bruce: a NIOSH-approved testing method for residual contamination is desperately needed.

By Tom Connor on July 7th, 2011 at 9:12 am

Although not an official NIOSH method, this publication describes methods currently being used at NIOSH.
Pretty JR, Connor TH, Spasojevic I, Kurtz KS, McLaurin JL, B’ Hymer C, Debord DG. Sampling and mass spectrometric analytical methods for five antineoplastic drugs in the healthcare environment. J Oncol Pharm Pract. 2010; (pre-publication on line).


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