- Safety and Health Topics
- Laser/Electrosurgery Plume
During surgical procedures that use a laser or electrosurgical unit, the thermal destruction of tissue creates a smoke byproduct. Each year, an estimated 500,000 workers, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists, are exposed to laser or electrosurgical smoke. Surgical plumes have contents similar to other smoke plumes, including carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and a variety of trace toxic gases. As such, they can produce upper respiratory irritation, and have in-vitro mutagenic potential. Although there has been no documented transmission of infectious disease through surgical smoke, the potential for generating infectious viral fragments, particularly following treatment of venereal warts, may exist. Local smoke evacuation systems have been recommended by consensus organizations, and may improve the quality of the operating field. Employers should be aware of this emerging problem and advise employees of the hazards of laser smoke.
There are currently no specific OSHA standards for laser/electrosurgery plume hazards.
Health Effects and Possible Solutions
Highlights references that may aid in controlling exposure to hazards associated with laser/electrosurgery plume.
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Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.