Workers May Be Inadequately Trained to Protect Themselves from Hazardous Chemical Exposure

April 30, 2014 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) survey of healthcare workers who handle hazardous chemicals found that some workers were not well trained or did not know if their employer had exposure protection procedures, according to an articlepublished in the February 2014 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. More than 12,000 healthcare workers that have been in contact with hazardous chemicals (e.g., aerosolized medications, antineoplastic drugs, chemical sterilants, high-level disinfectants, surgical smoke, and anesthetic gases) within the past seven days (or 30 days for aerosolized pentamidine, which is infrequently prescribed) answered questions in the Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers between January 28 and March 29, 2011. Survey questions included those about training (if and when it occurred) and the availability of standard procedures related to safe handling practices. More than half of the respondents were nurses (55%), and in this group, 75% worked in the following departments: anesthesiology, oncology, operating room, hematology/oncology, or gastroenterology/endoscopy. More than a quarter of respondents were either technologists or technicians (14%, mostly surgical and central supply) or physicians (12%, primarily anesthesiologists).

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