Archive for: Hazard Communication

Take a lesson about chemicals from janitor’s death

By: July 9th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

We hear it every day like a broken record – wear your PPE and know what you are doing when you are working with hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Unfortunately, too many people don’t listen and they end up paying the ultimate price.

I’m reminded of this today as I read more about the janitor in an elementary school in Plymouth, Massachusetts who was apparently overcome and died from exposure from an as-yet unknown chemical on Monday morning.

If you’re just learning about this, 53-year-old Chester Flattery, the head custodian at Manomet Elementary School, was found dead by the school secretary at about 8 a.m.  That employee and 12 other people – many of them police officers, firefighters and other first responders who were exposed – had to also be taken to the hospital for treatment.

The investigation is still ongoing, but reports say Flattery had been at work for an hour before anyone else and that he may have been applying a floor sealant at the time of his death. School is not in session and there is a lot of maintenance work that goes into getting the building ready for next year.

Now, we all in workplace safety world know he was supposed to be wearing a respirator, eye protection, and other protective equipment. I have been a teacher in an elementary school, and I have seen these guys hard at work getting the school ready, even as I was getting my own classroom ready for students.

Most of the time, they are in regular street clothes as they go about their duties and I am willing to bet Flattery was no exception. As someone who had been working there since 2007, he was probably just doing what he always did – this time the fumes were too much for him and no one was there to help him until it was too late.

It almost happened to me. Back in college, I worked as a pool director at a country club in Connecticut, responsible for maintaining the proper chemical levels. One morning, I went into the supply closet looking for chlorine pellets, not knowing that one of my lifeguards hadn’t tightened the cover of the bucket properly the night before, allowing rain water to seep in. When I took the cover off, I got hit with a cloud of chlorine gas that knocked me off my feet and burned my throat. Happily, I was able to get to fresh air quickly and was fine. But no one was around and I was not wearing any kind of protection. I was lucky, and I never made the same mistake twice.

In the healthcare field, you can take a lesson from this tragedy. Don’t assume that just because you have done a job for a long time, you can ignore the rules. OSHA has bloodborne pathogens and hazardous chemical standards for a reason. If you are working with patients, wear your gloves, use your safety sharps, and lift safely.

If you are in a lab and work with chemicals, make sure you know the hazards of what you are working with and how to handle it properly, as well as any first aid information – it’s why OSHA says you must have SDS safety sheets on site. And always be sure someone is around, because it may save your life.

How do you store, manage, and access your MSDS?

By: November 14th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Many workplaces are going paperless with their MSDS, storing them as PDFs or relying on fax-on-demand services. Others are sticking with paper, or are using a combination of electronic and paper files. How does your facility acquire, store, and manage access to your MSDS?

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NIOSH reports chemotherapy drug exposures to oncology clinic staff

By: July 13th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Concerns voiced by staff at an oncology clinic can help protect your workers, who may also handle hazardous drugs.

NIOSH posted a new Health Hazard Report prompted by a request from a Florida oncology clinic where staff members complained about upper respiratory irritation, headache, fainting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

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NIOSH updates healthcare hazardous drug list

By: July 2nd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

NIOSH has updated for 2012 the list of drugs commonly found in healthcare considered hazardous and requiring special handling.

List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings was last updated in 2010 and identifies drugs that could pose an occupational threat through various routes of exposure to workers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and housekeeping staff.

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Going green can also improve worker safety—Medical Environment Update, June 2012

By: June 4th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Green initiatives in the healthcare environment offer the obvious perks: financial savings, smaller footprint, and the organizational camaraderie of making a difference in the environment. And the June issue of Medical Environment Update reports on how environmentally sound practices can also spruce up the culture of safety, including worker safety, in healthcare facilities.

Here is an excerpt:

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NIOSH guidelines for hazardous drugs in healthcare

By: May 23rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

The following recommendations, published by NIOSH in 2004, cover the prevention of occupational exposures to antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs:

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Chemotherapy drugs and sterilizing agents put nurses at risk—Medical Environment Update, May 2012

By: May 23rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

It’s no surprise that highly toxic chemicals, found in chemotherapy drugs and sterilizing agents used to clean medical devices, can be harmful to those who don’t take the proper precautions. What is surprising is that exposure to these chemicals continues to be an issue, and that is one of the feature articles of the May issue of Medical Environment Update.

Here is an excerpt.

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BD offers free webinar protecting clinicians from hazardous drug exposures

By: April 16th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Despite guidelines issued by OSHA, NIOSH, many healthcare workers are unaware of the risks they face when handling chemotherapy and other hazardous drugs in the workplace, such as connecting syringes to injection ports, transferring drugs between containers or spiking IV containers.

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OSHA announces amended Hazard Communication standard

By: March 21st, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

OSHA’s changes to the Hazard Communication standard will improve safety by making it easier for workers to understand the threat that hazardous chemicals present in the workplace.

“Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious dangers facing American workers today,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis at a March 20 news conference. “Revising OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard will improve the quality, consistency and clarity of hazard information that workers receive, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”

The change aligns the standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals which, according to OSHA, should reduce confusion about chemical hazards in the workplace, facilitate safety training, and improve understanding of hazards, especially for low literacy workers. The GHS also classifies chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establishes consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the United States and imported from abroad.

“OSHA’s 1983 Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to know. As one participant expressed during our rulemaking process, this update will give them the right to understand, as well,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

The final rule revising the standard is available at, and complete implementation of HazCom 2012, as it is informally known, is expected by 2016. Employers have until December 2013 to train employees to the systems new requirements.

Take the guesswork out of complying with the newly modified OSHA Hazard Communication standard and PPE requirements in your healthcare facility

Changes to the OSHA Hazard Communication standard through adoption of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classifying and labeling chemicals, and the new Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in General Industry are two of the most significant changes from OSHA this year. Now, available on demand is HCPro’s HazCom/GHS and PPE Enforcement: Understanding the New Requirements for OSHA Compliance in Healthcare, a 90-minute audio program where healthcare industry experts will tell you how these changes affect your workplace, provide a timeline for implementation, and offer tools to help you train your staff.

HazCom GHS clears OMB review

By: March 6th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Adoption of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classifying and labeling chemicals into the Hazard Communication Standard just got one step closer to reality.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) concluded its review on February 21, “with a ruling that OSHA’s rule was ‘consistent with change,’” reports MSDSonline, February 23.

The “consistent with change” qualifier indicates OMB agreement with the intent of the rule, but requires a “substantive” change before publishing in the Federal Register, according to the report.

The notice in the Federal Register will include implementation and enforcement dates, which could be as long as one and two years respectively.

HazCom GHS review delayed

By: January 30th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

The much-anticipated chemical labeling change to the Hazard Communication Standard will take a bit longer.

OSHA submitted the change to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on October 25 and approval was expected last week, but the review process has been extended, reports National Safety Compliance, Inc, January 25.

“This extension of the review period is an extremely common action from the OMB and now allows them to almost indefinitely extend the time frame,” according to the National Safety Compliance, Inc, notice.

Approval would incorporate the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classifying and labeling chemicals into the Hazard Communication Standard. The change would bring sections of the standard on material safety data sheets and the labeling of hazardous substances in line with regulations used world-wide.

No information was given for a new review date on the OMB List of Regulatory Actions Currently Under Review.

Study: Workplace exposures put nurses at risk for lost pregnancies

By: January 23rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Nurses exposed to cancer treatment drugs or chemicals used to sterilize medical devices may be at higher risk of spontaneous abortions, according to a study appearing in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, reports Reuters, January 13.

That exposures to some chemicals are tied to lost pregnancies is not surprising, but Christina Lawson of NIOSH and the lead author of the study told Reuters: “What surprised me the most was that (chemotherapy) drugs are something we’ve been trying to educate nurses on, about the hazards, and we’re still finding exposures during the first trimester.”

“Occupational exposures among nurses and risk of spontaneous abortion” investigated self-reported exposure to antineoplastic drugs, anesthetic gases, antiviral drugs, sterilizing agents (disinfectants), and X-rays in 7482 U.S. nurses.

The study found “antineoplastic drug exposure was associated with a 2-fold increased risk of spontaneous abortion, particularly with early spontaneous abortion before the 12th week … sterilizing agents [were] associated with a 2-fold increased risk of late spontaneous abortion.”

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