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Hazardous materials in medical workplaces

Health care facilities in New Jersey and around the country have protocols in place designed to contain bloodborne pathogens and prevent outbreaks of the infectious diseases they can cause. Certain pharmaceutical compounds and the substances used to clean and sanitize medical equipment can also be hazardous and place hospital and medical clinic workers at risk.

Plans to deal with hazardous substances in the workplace often begin by identifying the substances involved and noting the locations where they are stored and used. This allows the workers who may come into contact with hazardous substances to be identified and trained appropriately. Particular attention should be paid to powerful cleaning and sanitizing compounds as they are widely used in hospitals and both medical and support staff are exposed to them on a regular basis. Medical equipment containing mercury and powerful chemotherapy drugs are less common, but they can be extremely hazardous to employees who have not been made aware of the risks.

OSHA requires health care facilities to have a written plan that details the policies and procedures that are in place for the storage, handling and use of toxic substances. These plans are designed to protect patients and the public as well as healthcare workers, and they should include a full inventory of the hazardous materials that may be present as well as the equipment and materials required to handle and dispose of them safely.

Health care workers in New Jersey who suffer an injury or become ill after being exposed to a hazardous substance while on the job may be eligible to file workers' compensation claims, but the process is time-sensitive and often requires significant medical documentation. Many injured workers as a result obtain the assistance of an attorney when preparing their claims.

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