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Best practices for preventing occupational exposure to anesthesia not always followed, NIOSH says

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Washington – The health care industry commonly uses scavenging systems to protect operating room personnel from exposure to anesthetic gases or vapors that are released or leak out during medical procedures, but other recommended practices are not always observed, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

Researchers examined data from the 2011 NIOSH Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, which included about 3,000 anesthesia care providers who had administered inhaled anesthesia in the past seven days. Results showed that although 97 percent of participants always used machines equipped with a scavenging system designed to remove waste anesthetic gas, some engaged in other practices that could increase exposure to the gases. Among the findings:

  • 35 percent of participants began anesthetic gas flow before applying a mask to a pediatric patient; 14 percent did so for adult patients.
  • 19 percent said their facilities lacked safe anesthesia handling procedures.
  • 18 percent had never received hazard awareness training.
  • 5 percent did not routinely check equipment for leaks.

“The findings from this self-reported survey are expected to help NIOSH, partners, employers and health care workers better understand current health and safety practices relative to working with hazardous chemical agents and identify gaps in current knowledge about those practices,” NIOSH stated in an Oct. 5 press release.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

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