Study Finds Poor Adherence to Precautionary Practices among Providers of Anesthesia Care

Published October 26, 2016

​A recent study by NIOSH researchers found that while scavenging systems—equipment used to prevent waste anesthetic gases from escaping into operating rooms—are widely used by anesthesia care providers, adherence to other recommended practices to minimize exposures is lacking. The article, which was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), describes examples of practices that may increase workers’ exposure risk. According to the authors, 35 percent of anesthesia care providers who were part of the study reported starting anesthetic gas flow before applying the mask to pediatric patients, and 14 percent indicated the same practice for adult patients. Nineteen percent of the workers reported that safe-handling procedures were unavailable, and 18 percent never received training on the safe handling of anesthetic gases. Five percent did not routinely check anesthesia equipment for leaks.

The study results are derived from the 2011 Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, a federally sponsored survey of U.S. healthcare workers that addresses safety and health practices relative to use of hazardous chemicals. According to NIOSH, the survey is the first to examine self-reported use of scavenging systems and other controls to minimize anesthesia care providers’ exposure to waste anesthetic gases.

“When precautionary practices are not followed, anesthesia care providers and bystanders are at risk of exposure,” NIOSH’s press release reads. “Ensuring proper precautionary measures are utilized requires diligence on the part of both employers and healthcare workers.”

NIOSH urges employers to ensure that anesthesia care providers are initially and periodically trained; safe-handling procedures reflecting recommended practices are in place; anesthesia machines with scavenging systems are used; and anesthesia delivery equipment is regularly inspected for leaks. The agency also recommends the use of medical surveillance, exposure monitoring, and other administrative controls.

For more information, see NIOSH’s website.

AIHA members can access the full JOEH article by logging in to the AIHA Member Center, clicking the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene link under the “Resources” subhead, and searching “precautionary practices for administering anesthetic gases” via the search field near the top of the page. The article will appear first in the search results.