In a hospital, hundreds of people each day – staff, patients, visitors – come into close proximity with a whole host of dangerous substances and chemicals. And some of these people, particularly hospital patients, may be incredibly vulnerable when it comes to suffering the effects of exposure to these substances. It is important, therefore, for hospitals to have a comprehensive spill management procedure in place.
In the course of treatment or research, staff and patients may both be exposed to substances that are classed as hazardous to health. In the UK, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations require that all employers assess the potential hazards to their employees (and others) and ensure that effective measures are put in place to deal with any incidents. In the hospital setting, this means that it is important to have spill kits on hand to clean up any spills that occur. It also means that staff should have training in the use of these spill kits, in the use pf Personal Protective Equipment, and in dealing with different spills that might occur.
Here are some of the dangerous substances found in hospitals:
Chemicals used in treatment
Surgical procedures may use anaesthetic gas, X-rays may require the use of barium, chemotherapy requires the use of cytotoxic drugs and mercury is often found in thermometers and other equipment; all of these substances can be harmful to the health if not used correctly.
Long term exposure to toxic fumes or carcinogenic chemicals could have a devastating effect on health in the future, leading to asthma, cancer and other diseases. And with gases, there is also the risk of explosions.
Because hospital patients are often vulnerable to infections for one reason or another, be it surgical wounds, IV sites, illnesses, disabilities or old age, it’s vital that a hospital environment is as clean and sterile as possible. As a result of this, hospital cleaning products are often very strong, and need to be diluted with water. If a spill of a concentrated product, such as a bleach, occurs, it could be extremely dangerous.
Blood and other bodily fluids
Because there are a lot of very sick people in hospitals, any blood or other bodily fluids should be regarded as hazardous to health. They may carry infections, some of which can become airborne and be inhaled by others. Others may be transmitted via skin contact or through open wounds.
When cleaning up a spill of any kind, it is vital to wear protective gloves and, often glasses and a mask. You may also have to wear a gown and shoe covers, depending on the size of the spill and the substance involved.
Because there are so many different hazardous substances used in hospitals, and because the circumstances (area, size, surface, cause, etc) of every spill are different, it is important to thoroughly assess the situation before dealing with any spill. Make sure anyone who deals with the spill is trained to do so, and ensure any waste is disposed of in the correct manner, not simply thrown in the rubbish bin. You should also have procedures in place for evacuating the area if necessary.
Cairn Technology supply a wide range of chemical spill kits to hospitals throughout the UK. Their spill kits have been developed in conjunction with leading healthcare providers and Health & Safety Officers and are used in over 300 hospitals across the country.