Taking a Stand Against Surgical Smoke in the O.R.
Where Do We Stand Today?
- 500,000 healthcare workers are exposed to surgical smoke each year, according to estimates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 1
- There is broad agreement by various governmental, medical, and industry organizations that steps should be taken to protect the O.R. staff from the hazards of surgical smoke.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Drug Administration and OSHA, have issued like-minded statements supporting the use of Local Exhaust Ventilation (“LEV”), but those guidelines are not mandatory.
- Many professional organizations, including AORN, The American Nurses Association and The American National Standards Institute, have championed recommendations supporting the use of LEV for surgical smoke. 2
Despite increased awareness, there’s still a lot of work to do ahead of us…
- There is no clear regulation in place to deal with surgical smoke in the O.R. As a result, there is widespread confusion as to the steps health professionals need to take to ensure a safe work environment.
- There is inconsistent use of LEV, including smoke evacuators and wall vacuums.
- Few perioperative nurses have access to current research on how to deal with the harmful by-products of surgical procedures.
1 2007 OSHA “Lasers and Electrosurgery Plume.” United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/laserelectrosurgeryplume/ index.html. Accessed November 11, 2010.
2 Hoglan, M. “Potential Hazards from Electrosurgery Plume – Recommendations for Surgical Smoke Evacuation.” Can Oper Room Nurs J. 1995 Dec:13(4):10-16.