NIOSH Recommends Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs

Published December 5, 2012

In a “Workplace Solutions” document published late last month, NIOSH recommends that employers establish medical surveillance programs as part of their prevention programs for workers who prepare, administer, or transport hazardous drugs or dispose of hazardous drug waste. The publication supersedes the 2007 version of this document.

Medical surveillance programs, along with engineering controls, work practice controls, personal protective equipment, and education, will help minimize adverse health effects from exposure to hazardous drugs, according to the agency. Workers who may be exposed to hazardous drugs in the workplace include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and veterinarians, as well as environmental service workers such as housekeeping, laundry, and maintenance workers. Exposures may occur via skin contact, inhalation, ingestion, or injection (needlestick or sharps injury).

NIOSH lists the following as elements to be included in a medical surveillance program:

  • Reproductive and general health questionnaires (completed at the time of hire and periodically thereafter)
  • History of drug handling
  • A plan to provide initial baseline clinical evaluation
  • A follow-up plan as needed for workers who have shown health changes suggesting toxicity or who have experienced an acute exposure

View the “Workplace Solutions” publication on NIOSH’s website.