State passes first law protecting healthcare workers from hazardous drug exposures

By: April 18th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on April 13 signed into law two bills to protect healthcare workers from hazardous drug exposures and to track occupational cancer links from such exposures, reports InvestigateWest.

The two safety laws are the first in the nation to specifically address protection for workers handling chemotherapy and other toxic drugs, and could be a model for other state and federal legislation, Bill Borwegen, health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union in Washington, D.C., told InvestigateWest.

OSHA Healthcare Advisor reported last January that Washington state legislators were considering safety laws partly as a reaction to a series of InvestigateWest stories about healthcare workers getting cancer.

The first bill, SB 5594, directs the Department of Labor and Industries to adopt rules for the handling of hazardous drugs in healthcare facilities with input from the facilities and organizations representing healthcare personnel. The rules developed will be consistent with NIOSH provisions adopted in 2004 and updated in 2010, according to the bill.

The second bill, SB 5149, requires that occupational information to be included on the statewide cancer database. Such data will assist the state in tracking potential links between occupational exposures and cancer outcomes, according to InvestigateWest.

For the updated NIOSH list of hazardous drugs, see the OSHA Healthcare Advisor Tools web page.


By Bruce Cunha on April 19th, 2011 at 10:44 am

These would appear to be reasonable requirements. I would hope that facilities using hazardous drugs are already at or above the NIOSH standards for safety of employees.

Adding occupational information to the cancer registry is also a start as a way of having some information to look at.

Problem is that in the articles referred to, most of the employees were working with these chemicals before the current safety programs were in place. There is no doubt that safety processes were not good. Question that has not been answered is if the medical issues are continuing now that we have the safety programs in place. So far, we are not seeing them.


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