Legislation Assembly Democrats Angelica Jimenez, Jerry Green, Raj Mukherji and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to adopt regulations concerning the handling of hazardous drugs that could be harmful to health care personnel is now law.
“These hazardous drugs pose a real risk to health care personnel who may be exposed to them in the air and through contact with work surfaces, clothing, medical equipment and patients,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This law will help ensure that all necessary precautions are taken so that health care professionals who must work with these drugs are well protected.”
The new law (A-837) establishes the “Hazardous Drug Safe Handling Act,” which requires the Commissioner of Health and the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety, in consultation with a defined group of stakeholders in the areas of health care and workplace safety, to adopt standards and regulations concerning the handling of hazardous drugs by health care personnel.
Hazardous drugs, including antineoplastic drugs used in chemotherapy, have been associated with a number of adverse acute, short-term and chronic effects, including skin rashes, infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, various cancers and damage to the liver, kidneys, bone marrow, heart and lungs.
“The risks associated with these drugs could very likely keep people from pursuing this work,” said Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “This new law will help reduce the potential for harmful exposure and ensure patients get the care they need from well-trained health care professionals.”
“The effects of these drugs on an individual range from birth defects to heart damage,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Given the severity of the health risks, it is imperative that guidelines be set up to ensure the proper handling of these drugs and reduce the risk of exposure.”
“These health care professionals are providing an important service to patients battling cancer,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is critical not just for these professionals, but also for the patients they care for, that we make their working environment as safe and risk-free as possible.”
As per the new law, the commissioner, the director, and the stakeholder group must adopt consensus-driven standards and regulations concerning the handling of hazardous drugs by health care personnel in a health care facility, pharmacy practice site, or an animal or veterinary facility. The standards and regulations must describe the hazardous drugs for which handling will be regulated, the methods and procedures for handling such drugs, an implementation plan, and such other requirements as necessary to protect the health and safety of health care personnel.
The standards and regulations may include, but are not limited to:
- written, site-specific hazardous drug control programs to avoid occupational exposure through transporting, compounding, administering, disposing, or other handling of hazardous drugs;
- hazard assessments to determine precautions necessary to protect health care personnel from exposure;
- engineering controls to eliminate or minimize exposure;
- personal protective equipment and the circumstances under which personal protective equipment must be used by health care personnel;
- safe handling practices, including handling, receiving, storage, preparing, administering, waste handling, cleaning, housekeeping, labeling and signage, and maintenance practices;
- spill control and response procedures;
- training standards and practices;
- requirements for recordkeeping, including records related to training sessions, qualifications, incident reports, and other pertinent information; and
- appropriate medical surveillance for health care personnel who directly handle hazardous drugs.
Under the law, the standards and regulations also must include requirements for inspections by the appropriate licensing or inspection authority, provide a schedule of penalties for violations of the law and must be based on the most recent recommendations set forth by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Employers of health care personnel must provide hazardous drugs training to all employees who have or are likely to be exposed to hazardous drugs. The training must take place at the time of the employee’s initial job assignment and on an annual basis thereafter.
The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature before being signed into law by the governor on Thursday.