NIOSH provides tips for protecting health care workers from hazardous drugs

Washington – A new document (.pdf file) from NIOSH addresses medical surveillance for health care workers exposed to hazardous drugs.

Approximately 8 million health care workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs or drug waste every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers most at risk include pharmacists, nurses, physicians, home health care workers and housekeepers.

NIOSH recommends establishing a medical surveillance program that includes initial and follow-up questionnaires, workers’ history of drug handling, a baseline clinical evaluation, and a follow-up plan for workers experiencing adverse health effects.

If surveillance reveals health changes, NIOSH advises:

  • Evaluating current protective measures
  • Verifying that controls are working and monitoring worker compliance with policies
  • Developing a plan to prevent further exposure
  • Ensuring confidential two-way communication between a worker and the employee health unit

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