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The potential dangers of hazardous drugs to health care workers

There are numerous different things that health care workers sometimes work with as part of their job. One are medications. There are a wide range of different health care jobs that can involve the handling of medications or the administration of medications to patients. 

For many types of medications, no real serious health risks arise for those workers who handle or administer them. However, there are medications that can be quite toxic, and thus can raise some significant safety issues when it comes to their handling/administration. Some examples of drugs that sometimes fall under this latter category include hormone agents, cancer drugs, bio-engineered drugs and antiviral drugs. 

When a health care worker who handles or administers a hazardous drug becomes exposed to the drug, it could cause significant health problems for them. For example, such exposure sometimes results in a worker acquiring an occupational illness or disease.

Health care workers who develop an illness or a disease as a result of handling/administering medications or other activities related to their work may have a right to workers’ comp benefits. 

Given how harmful hazardous drug exposures can be to health care workers, one hopes that all health care facilities take appropriate actions to keep their workers who handle or administer hazardous drugs as part of their job properly protected from exposures. This can include giving such workers appropriate protective equipment and giving them adequate training regarding proper use of such equipment. Some examples of protective equipment that can sometimes help protect health care workers from harmful exposures when working with hazardous medications are: respirators, gowns, gloves, hair covers, shoe covers, sleeve covers, eye goggles and face shields.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HAZARDOUS DRUG EXPOSURES IN HEALTH CARE,” Accessed Feb. 23, 2015

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Workplace Solutions – Personal Protective Equipment for Health Care Workers Who Work with Hazardous Drugs,” October 2008