Worker exposure to hazardous drugs has been identified by OSHA 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.
Hazardous drugs are addressed in specific standards for the general industry.
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 businesses may contact OSHA's free On-site Consultation services funded by OSHA to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites. To contact free consultation services, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation webpage 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.
- Hazardous Drugs Rule. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Adopted on January 3, 2012 and will take effect in 3 stages beginning January 1, 2015.
- Work precautions for handling hazardous drugs highlighted by NIOSH, OSHA, Joint Commission. OSHA Trade News Release, (2011, April 7).
- 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. Reviews safety and health topics related to hazardous drugs including drug handling, administration, storage, and disposal.