While drugs can help patients recover from devastating ailments and diseases, the drugs administered to patients may harm healthcare workers. Long term exposure to these drugs, such as those used for chemotherapy, could result in workers themselves developing negative health effects. An estimated 8 million healthcare workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs that may be harmful to their health, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Workplace exposure may result in acute and chronic health conditions, including skin rashes, and staff may even develop cancers such as leukemia.
Healthcare staff who may work in a position that involves exposure to these types of drugs include: pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, nurses, physicians and physician assistants as well as operating room personnel.
“Workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs when they create aerosols, generate dust, clean up spills, or touch contaminated surfaces when compounding, administering, or disposing of hazardous drugs or patient waste,” according to NIOSH.
NIOSH said the amount of exposure to hazardous drugs determines how toxic they may be to healthcare staff. In knowing these health risks, employers may want to encourage workers to protect themselves using engineering controls and by following administrative policies when handling these drugs.
Techniques and equipment to prevent exposure to hazardous drugs
NIOSH recommends that employers perform a risk assessment of the workplace to identify the drugs that workers will be exposed to, such as the types of drugs that are administered and handled. The agency recommends that employers determine the working environment, including the physical layout of work areas. In this way, healthcare facilities can better improve the safety procedures and utilize the engineering controls they have for hazardous drugs.
Workers could choose to implement closed system transfer devices (CSTDs), which are becoming increasingly used in hospitals, according to Pharmacy Practice News. A CSTD is a medical device to transfer drugs without hazardous drugs or fumes from escaping. While hospitals could purchase these devices, healthcare employers could also consider employing other engineering controls that focus on cleaning air to prevent exposure.
When drug preparation causes hazardous emissions, air purification is key. Removing toxic fumes before they enter a worker’s breathing space is crucial for ensuring employee wellness. Indoor air cleaning equipment such as our 989 model will help pharmacists and healthcare facilities maintain a healthy IAQ.
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