OSHA has identified worker exposure to hazardous drugs as a problem of increasing health concern. Preparation, administration, manufacturing, and disposal of hazardous medications may expose hundreds of thousands of workers, principally in healthcare facilities and the pharmaceutical industry, to potentially significant workplace levels of these chemicals. Antineoplastic cytotoxic medications, anesthetic agents, anti-viral agents, and others, have been identified as hazardous. These hazardous medications are capable of causing serious effects including cancer, organ toxicity, fertility problems, genetic damage, and birth defects.
OSHA addresses hazardous drugs in specific standards for general industry such as the Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.1450) and the (globally harmonized) Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).
Employer programs should attend to several critical elements, including the infrastructure program and management requirements outlined in the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention General Chapters 797 and 800; the Oncology Nursing Society guidelines, now available free of charge; and staff work assignments and management to reduce/ remove hazards to conception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding arisinbg from exposures to hazardous drugs.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
- NEW Update on Hazardous Drugs. OSHA, (August 1, 2016). A recent systematic review of existing programs and requirements.
- Hazardous Drugs Rule. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Adopted on January 3, 2012 and took effect in 3 stages January 1, 2015.
- U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention General Chapter 800. U.S. Pharmacopeia issued USP 797 & 800, a formal worker protection document.
- Work precautions for handling hazardous drugs highlighted by NIOSH, OSHA, Joint Commission. OSHA Trade News Release, (April 7, 2011).
- Healthcare Wide Hazards - Hazardous Chemicals. OSHA Hospital eTool. Provides hazards and solutions for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides, disinfectants, and hazardous drugs in the workplace.
- Pharmacy. OSHA Hospital eTool. Reviews safety and health topics related to hazardous drugs including drug handling, administration, storage, and disposal.