Health & Safety Institute Blog

March 7, 2014

Healthcare Worker Training and Hazardous Chemicals

HealthCareThe National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently published some interesting survey results about healthcare workers and their interaction with hazardous chemicals.

According to their article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, “healthcare workers who routinely come in contact with hazardous chemicals on the job lack training and awareness of employer procedures to adequately protect themselves from exposure.”

The 2011 survey had over 12,000 participants, all of whom were healthcare workers who routinely come in contact with hazardous chemicals. The researchers wanted to get a handle on issues such as training, best practices to minimize exposure, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Chemical agents of concern were antineoplastic agents, high level disinfectants, aerosolized medications, anesthetic gases, surgical smoke and chemical sterilants.

Study findings include:

  • Workers administering aerosolized antibiotics were the least likely to have received training on their safe use (48% reported they were never trained), followed closely by those exposed to surgical smoke.
  • Workers most likely to have received training were those who administered antineoplastic drugs (95%) and those who used hydrogen peroxide gas plasma as a chemical sterilant (92%).
  • For those exposed to surgical smoke, 40% did not know if their employers had safe handling procedures. For those exposed to anesthetic gases, 25% did not know.
  • Those who administered antineoplastic drugs were least likely to report that they did not know whether their employer had procedures for minimizing employees' exposure (3%).
  • Chemical specific training and awareness of employer safe handling procedures varied by employer work setting (Ambulatory Healthcare Services versus Hospital).” 

NIOSH wants to use these findings and others in future surveys in this ongoing project to help better prepare these important caregivers to keep themselves safe on the job.

Whether you are in the healthcare field or a different business sector, if you have hazardous chemicals in your workplace, you’ll need to know about OSHA’s Global Harmonized System (GHS), the new system for labeling and classifying chemicals. New safety data sheets and training are required to keep businesses in compliance. The first training deadline was December 1, 2013.

You can read more about GHS on our blog and learn how Summit Training Source can help you with training on this new system.

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