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Protecting health care employees from workplace chemicals

Health care employees in North Carolina and across the United States are thoroughly trained on how to avoid exposure to bloodborne pathogens while at work. However, these workers face many other hazardous chemicals at hospitals and other health care facilities every day. It is essential for health care industry employers to identify these chemicals and put plans in place to keep employees safe.

A complete inventory of all chemicals, including disinfectants, sanitizers and other cleaning solutions, should be made for each department in a facility. Each variety and brand of disinfectant should be noted so that proper handling instructions can be communicated to the staff. Instrument sterilization chemicals, solutions for vaccine preparation and X-ray processing chemicals are generally limited to specific departments, but they can cause breathing hazards to employees working nearby and should be included on the inventory list.

Once all chemicals are inventoried, a safety plan should be written in accordance with the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This plan should include instructions for proper handling and disposal of all chemicals present at a facility. Please note that many chemicals cannot be simply dumped down sinks or other drains due to environmental regulations. Finally, all health care employees must be educated on safety procedures and protocols for every chemical they will potentially come in contact with. If employees are not properly trained, they can accidentally put themselves, co-workers, patients and the environment in danger.

Workplace chemicals can cause severe burns, breathing problems or other health issues. Health care employees who are injured by chemicals while at work may be left with steep medical bills and forced to miss weeks or months of work while they recover. However, an attorney could help an injured worker file a workers' compensation claim that covers all medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.

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