NIOSH Publishes Recommendations for Preventing Fentanyl Exposures to Healthcare Workers

Published May 9, 2018
A new NIOSH web page addresses concerns related to potential occupational exposures of healthcare workers to illicit fentanyl. The agency’s recommendations, which cover work practices, training, personal protective equipment, and decontamination of clothing, are intended for possible exposures to fentanyl that originated from sources outside of a healthcare facility—for example, from the surrounding community. Exposures to pharmaceutical fentanyl, which is used in many healthcare facilities, present different hazards than those of illicit fentanyl, according to NIOSH.

Healthcare personnel may be exposed to illicit fentanyl when it is present on patients or on patients’ personal items. Illicit fentanyl can be in powder, tablet, or liquid forms. Exposures to illicit fentanyl can occur not only among healthcare workers who treat patients but also to those whose responsibilities involve environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, billing, and other tasks.

The exposures of greatest concern for healthcare workers include inhalation of powders or aerosols, mucous membrane contact, ingestion, or needlesticks, all of which can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression, according to NIOSH.

NIOSH previously published a web page on preventing occupational exposures to fentanyl among emergency responders. More resources on fentanyl are available from the NIOSH website.

Related: The Synergist has published several recent articles on fentanyl and opioids exposure, including “The Opioid Abuse Epidemic: How Can Our Profession Help?,” “Occupational Exposures to Fentanyl,” and “Protection in an Uncontrolled Environment: Emergency Responders and Opioids Exposures.” Additional perspectives from Synergist readers can be found in the letters to the editor published in the March 2018 issue.

At AIHce EXP 2018 in Philadelphia, the general session on Tuesday, May 22, will be a panel discussion on mitigating opioid exposure risks to first responders.