Washington has become the first state in the nation to require protection for healthcare workers who handle, administer and dispose of chemotherapy drugs.
This new law addresses concerns raised both by OSHA and NIOSH, which recommend that precautions be taken when handling these drugs. OSHA calls for development and implementation of a “Hazardous Drug Safety and Health Plan” where employees are exposed to such drugs. Nevertheless, until now, federal OSHA has issued no standard dealing specifically with the issue and no state has required employers to take protective measures, such as proper ventilation or protective equipment in the preparation, administration and disposal of such drugs. The Governor has directed the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to adopt requirements for the safe handling of chemotherapy drugs by healthcare workers. After such requirements are adopted, we will provide an updated post.
While Washington may be the only state in the nation to mandate worker protection expressly, to limit exposure to potential tort claims and possible citations under OSHA’s General Duty Clause or other state OSHA plan laws and regulations, appropriate protective measures should be considered and implemented, as needed.