In Washington state: Adopting a rule consistent with NIOSH recommendations

In at least one case, legislators have forced a type of cooperation between NIOSH and OSHA. In Washington state, the legislature unanimously passed a bill (S. 5594) requiring the state’s Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health to adopt a rule based on NIOSH recommendations.

Signed into law April 13, 2011, the bill is limited in that it only relates to health care workers exposed to hazardous drugs. Specifically, L&I was directed to adopt a rule “consistent” with provisions in NIOSH’s alert on preventing occupational exposures to antineoplastic (which treat cancer) and other hazardous drugs in health care settings. According to the alert, first issued in 2004 and updated in 2010, antineoplastic and other drugs may cause skin rashes, infertility, miscarriages, and even cancer.

The standard is not an exact copy of NIOSH’s alert – L&I needed to provide some flexibility for certain settings. For instance, retail pharmacies that may only deal with birth control pills do not need the same types of ventilation controls that other health care settings might need.
Despite this, the rule is still closely aligned with the NIOSH alert – potentially the first and only regulation to ever do so.

“It’s the first time in my recollection that a NIOSH recommendation has been turned so directly into a rule by one of the enforcement agencies,” Michael Silverstein, head of Washington state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said to S+H. The state’s Hazardous Drugs Standard was adopted Jan. 3 and will begin taking effect in stages on Jan. 1, 2014.

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