PROTECTING WORKERS AGAINST HAZARDOUS MEDICINAL PRODUCTS

Mar 1, 2024 | Featured Articles

Ireland’s trade union Fórsa and the European Biosafety Network are calling for greater protection for healthcare workers from long-term exposure to hazardous medicinal products, which can cause cancer, leukaemia and miscarriages in employees such as pharmacists, technicians, nurses and other workers in health and social care sectors.

Fórsa (Ireland’s second largest trade union) and the European Biosafety Network (EBN), in association with the Hospital Pharmacists’ Association of Ireland (HPAI) and the National Association of Hospital Pharmacy Technicians (NAHPT) hosted a joint summit in Dublin at the end of January.

The summit looked at the practical aspects of preventing occupational exposure of healthcare workers and professionals to hazardous medicinal products (HMPs). Exposure to these products, often used to treat cancer and other life-threatening conditions, can happen anywhere from manufacture to preparation, administration and disposal, and can cause health impacts from headaches and hair loss to miscarriages, reproductive problems and different types of cancer.

Linda Kelly, Fórsa’s National Secretary, said: “With the issue of exposure to hazardous medicinal products directly and indirectly impacting many of our members, it is imperative that awareness by employers and workers of the risks is improved, and we act now to prevent the damaging health effects that exposure to HMPs can have on the workforce.

“We are calling for preventive measures and closed systems to be put in place to protect all workers potentially exposed to contamination. We must work holistically to ensure that all workers in health and social care are sufficiently protected when doing their jobs.

“The new EU Directive that includes HMPs for the first time must be transposed into Irish law by 5 April. The real work does not stop with changes to legislation or the implementation of new EU guidance; employers in Irish health and social care need to understand the risks of exposure to HMPs, implement controls and take immediate action to protect workers.”

The European Biosafety Network conducted a survey to determine the level of awareness and protection of workers in Ireland of the risk of exposure to HMPs and what safe handling measures were in place to prevent exposure, according to its secretary Ian Lindsley.

“Worryingly the results presented at the summit show a lack of awareness about the issue and low levels of risk assessments undertaken, coupled with insufficient training and a lack of preventive measures and surveillance of contamination,” he added. “New EU legislation and guidance must be disseminated and implemented in Ireland now to protect healthcare workers from potentially devastating health impacts due to exposure at work. Further progress needs to be made and fast.”

For further information email [email protected].

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