What are occupational or workplace exposures?
Occupational or workplace exposures occur when members work with or around chemical, biological, and physical hazards in the workplace that can cause an adverse health effect such as an acute or chronic illness, or death.
Why is knowledge of workplace exposures important to UPN members?
Frontline healthcare workers encounter a wide variety of chemical, physical, and biological hazards in their work.
- Chemical hazards, such as pesticides, chemotherapy drugs, and cleaning products
- Biological hazards, such as a virus or bacteria transmitted a variety of ways including through blood and body fluid splashes, needlesticks, or coughs and sneezes
- Physical hazards, such as ionizing radiation, noise, and substances like asbestos
Exposures can result in acute illness; or, the consequence of exposure may not become evident for decades. From 2006 – 2010, WorkSafeBC accepted over 700 claims for nurses who were injured and disabled from work due to workplace exposures. Nurses have died from occupational diseases due to workplace exposures.
What is required for prevention?
In accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, where there is a risk of exposure to a chemical, biological or physical hazard, the employer has a responsibility to eliminate the exposure, or control it below harmful levels, and implement exposure control plans (ECPs). ECPs document the risks, and measures to eliminate or minimize them. Plans also include provisions for education of workers, written work procedures, hygiene facilities, and health monitoring. All of this is to be done in consultation with the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees.
For more information
Occupational Health and Safety Regulation: