Best practices to prevent healthcare workers’ exposure to antineoplastic (hazardous) drugs

Antineoplastic drugs, also known as hazardous or chemotherapy drugs, are routinely handled in many healthcare facilities in the province of Ontario.  Occupational exposure to these drugs has been associated with reproductive toxic effects (e.g. spontaneous abortions, difficulty conceiving), genetic damage and an increased risk for certain cancers.  Researchers have demonstrated that a wide range of healthcare workers, not just nurses and pharmacy personnel, are potentially exposed to antineoplastic drugs.  Essentially, any worker within the hospital medication circuit (all steps through which the drug travels, from the initial delivery all the way to its eventual disposal) is at risk of exposure to these agents.  It is also important to note that healthcare workers in non-acute care setting such as home and long-term care are also potentially at risk of exposure to antineoplastic drugs.

Section 97 of Ontario Regulation 67/93 “Healthcare and Residential Facilities”, a piece of legislation under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, requires that employers provide training to workers who may be exposed to antineoplastic agents.  To help facilitate this, Ryerson University and the Public Services Health & Safety Association developed an online learning module.  This module was designed to raise awareness of the risks of exposure to antineoplastic drugs and provides a summary of some of the health and safety best practices to mitigate the risk.

If you are a healthcare professional working in an Ontario facility where antineoplastic drugs are handled and want to learn more about how you can protect yourself, please visit the following links:

Drug Administration Workers (those who work in a drug administration unit)

Home and Long-Term Care Workers

Housekeeping Staff

Pharmacy Personnel (includes pharmacy receivers, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists)

Shipping, Receiving and Transportation Workers (includes porters)

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