Healthcare Workers Neglect Precautionary Measures When Handling High-level Disinfectants, Survey Finds

NIOSH survey findings indicate that healthcare workers who disinfect medical and dental devices do not always use precautionary measures to protect themselves from exposure to high-level disinfectants (HLDs). According to NIOSH, some of these chemicals—including glutaraldehyde, orthophthaldehyde, peracetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide—are respiratory and skin irritants and sensitizers, and workers who use HLDs are at risk of exposure. Results of the study were recently published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The authors conclude that the findings highlight the importance of improved employer and worker training and education regarding these hazards. 

The survey respondents included members of professional practice organizations representing nurses, technologists and technicians, dental professionals, respiratory therapists, and others who reported handling HLDs in the previous week. Of the workers who responded to the survey, 44 percent said that they did not always wear water-resistant gowns. Twelve percent reported skin contact with HLDs during the past week, and nine percent said that they did not always wear protective gloves. The most frequently reported reason for not wearing personal protective equipment was that “exposure was minimal.”
Further, 17 percent of survey respondents reported a lack of safe handling training, and 19 percent said that standard procedures for minimizing exposure to HLDs were unavailable.
This study is one of a series detailing results from the NIOSH Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, a voluntary, anonymous, Web-based survey of healthcare workers in the U.S. that was conducted in 2011. For more information, visit the NIOSH website.

LINKS •NewsWatch HomeTable of Contents