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Jimenez, Green, Mukherji & Sumter Bill to Establish Rules for Handling of Hazardous Drugs, Protect Health Care Personnel that Administer them Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson), Jerry Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) and Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic) to adopt regulations concerning the handling of hazardous drugs that could be harmful to health care personnel was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

“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 bill would help ensure that all necessary precautions are taken so that health care professionals who must work with these drugs are well protected.”

The bill (A-837) would establish the “Hazardous Drug Safe Handling Act,” which would require the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to promulgate rules 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 would 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 the patients they care for, that we make their working environment as safe and risk-free as possible.”

Under the bill, no later than 12 months after the effective date, the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety, and a stakeholder group comprised of certain members as set forth in the bill, would have to adopt consensus-driven standards and regulations concerning the handling of hazardous drugs by health care personnel in a health care setting or an animal or veterinary facility. The standards and regulations would describe the hazardous drugs for which handling must be regulated, the methods and procedures for handling such drugs, an implementation plan, and such other requirements needed to protect the health and safety of health care personnel.

The standards and regulations may include, but are not limited to: (1) written, site-specific hazardous drug control programs to avoid occupational exposure through transporting, compounding, administering, disposing, or other handling of hazardous drugs; (2) hazard assessments to determine precautions necessary to protect health care personnel from exposure; (3) engineering controls to eliminate or minimize exposure; (4) personal protective equipment and the circumstances under which personal protective equipment must be used by health care personnel; (5) safe handling practices, including handling, receiving, storage, preparing, administering, waste handling, cleaning, housekeeping, labeling and signage, and maintenance practices; (6) spill control and response procedures; (7) training standards and practices; (8) requirements for recordkeeping, including records related to training sessions, qualifications, incident reports, and other pertinent information; and (9) medical surveillance, including, at a minimum, a free medical evaluation for health care personnel who directly handle hazardous drugs, , at the time of hiring, upon exposure to hazardous drugs, and upon request when the request is related to reproductive concerns.

Employers of health care personnel would have to provide hazardous drugs training to all employees who have or are likely to be exposed to hazardous drugs. The training would take place at the time of the employee’s initial job assignment, and on an annual basis thereafter.

Lastly, the commissioner would enforce the provisions of the bill, and would have right-of-entry to all pertinent premises and records for the purposes of inspection and information.

The bill was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.