HAZWOPER Training for Hospital Staff

The OSHA HAZWOPER standard requires that workers are trained to complete their work without endangering themselves or others. The first step in compliance with the HAZWOPER standard is to complete an assessment of the hazards in the workplace and community and what will be required of your staff to respond to such hazards.

In a standard interpretation letter to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, OSHA states, if decontamination of patients is required in the hospital, prior to hospital staff treating the patients, then the hospital staff “must be trained to the first responder operations level with emphasis on the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and decontamination procedures.”

The first responder operations level training requirement is as follows:

1) First responders must have knowledge of the basic hazard and risk assessment techniques.

2) They must know how to select and use proper personal protective equipment.

3) They must have an understanding of basic hazardous materials terms.

4) First responders should know how to perform basic control, containment and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of the resources and personal protective equipment available with their unit.

5) They must know how to implement basic decontamination procedures.

6) First responders must have an understanding of the relevant standard operating procedures and termination procedures.

hazwoper-accidental-release-tileThe training requirement for first responder operations level is eight hours. Operational level first responders are trained to respond to a hazardous chemical release defensively, to contain hazardous substance release, but not actually stop it. Therefore it is the hospital’s responsibility to ensure emergency department staff is trained to the above requirements. It is also the hospital’s responsibility to create a plan to handle such cases and maximize employee safety during decontamination of patients.

However, hospital workers are not only exposed to hazardous chemicals when treating patients for hazardous chemical exposure. Nurses, physicians and other staff can come into contact with hazardous drugs while treating patients, such as Anti-neoplastic or chemotherapy drugs. Again, it is the hospital’s responsibility to create a program to minimize the possibility of accidental exposure to hazardous drugs to ensure employee safety.

The first step to ensuring employee safety while handling hazardous substances is to implement a written hazard communication program. Existing hazard communication programs should be updated to the new Global Harmonization Standard (GHS).

There are six steps to implementing a hazard communication program:

1) Learn the standard/ identify responsible staff

2) Prepare and implement a written hazard communication program

3) Ensure containers are labeled

4) Maintain safety data sheets

5) Inform and train employees

6) Evaluate and reassess your program

HAZWOPERHazard communication programs should be implemented hospital-wide. However, for staff who come into contact with hazardous drugs, additional programs should be put into place. Employees should be trained in the proper handling, preparation, administration, storing and disposal of hazardous drugs. Those who are caring for patients who have been treated with hazardous drugs should also be trained with universal precautions, in accordance with the blood borne pathogens standard.

Learn More!

Bloodborne Pathogens
Handling Hazardous Materials Hazardous Materials Labels Hazardous Spills HAZMAT 

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