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Jan 27, 2019

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Safety Hazards in Healthcare Industry

Findings from a survey conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) show that precautionary measures to minimize worker exposure to high-level disinfectants (HLDs) are not always used. The study results were recently published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The recent release is one of a series of reports detailing results from the 2011 Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, the largest federally-sponsored survey of healthcare workers in the U.S. Respondents included those who chemically disinfect medical or dental devices using one or more of the following HLDs during the past week:

  • glutaraldehyde
  • orthophthaldehyde (OPA)
  • peracetic acid
  • and/or hydrogen peroxide

Information on various exposure controls and impediments to using personal protective equipment (PPE) was assessed.

Findings suggest that recommended practices are not always used by healthcare workers. The following describes examples of practices that may increase exposure risk:

  • 17% never received training on the safe handling of HLDs.
  • 19% reported that safe handling procedures were unavailable.
  • 44% did not always wear a water-resistant gown or outer garment.
  • 9% did not always wear protective gloves.
  • 'Exposure was minimal' was the most frequently reported reason for not wearing PPE.
  • 12% reported skin contact with HLDs during the past week.
  • Workers reporting skin contact were 4 times more likely to report not always wearing protective gloves.

When precautionary practices are not followed, workers handling HLDs are at risk of exposure. Ensuring proper precautionary measures are utilized requires diligence on the part of both employers and healthcare workers. Employers who provide a safety culture that demonstrates a strong commitment to health and safety of their workers ensure that adequate resources and safety equipment are available.

Yes, workers should seek out training, understand and follow safety procedures, and feel free to report any safety concerns. In order to do this, leadership must set that expectation and provide the support needed to develop this culture of safety excellence.

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