Formaldehyde is one of the most common types of workplace airborne contaminants, and exposure is one of the most cited violations reported in U.S. healthcare facilities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalizes healthcare facilities that fail to provide employees with formaldehyde training and monitoring. Healthcare facilities regularly utilize formaldehyde as a sterilizer, disinfectant, and preservative. The potential health side effects of formaldehyde can be lethal. It’s important to understand these effects to protect healthcare workers and vulnerable patients. Learning how to protect a healthcare facility against formaldehyde means training employees on practice controls and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Learn the safety requirements and best practices on how to protect a healthcare facility against formaldehyde to limit hazardous exposure for patients and healthcare workers.
1. Prevention Steps
Install a gas detection system inside each healthcare unit to monitor formaldehyde concentrations in an indoor atmosphere. It’s best to practice regular maintenance of these devices to remain consistent with OSHA indoor air quality guidelines. Supply healthcare workers with appropriate PPE, such as latex gloves and face masks, when handling medical solutions that contain formaldehyde.
2. Exposure Warnings
Main routes of exposure to formaldehyde include skin contact, eye contact, and inhalation. An immediate reaction to toxic exposure levels of formaldehyde includes severe irritation of mucous membranes, shortness of breath, and in some cases death. The effects of long-term or chronic exposure result in an allergic reaction like skin rashes, itching, and swelling.
3. Handling and Storage
A variety of solutions contain formaldehyde in a healthcare facility and it’s important for providers to know how to properly handle and store them. Avoid unprotected contact with a solution containing formaldehyde by wearing the appropriate PPE. Be mindful of correctly labeling solution bottles to indicate their formaldehyde content. Store all solutions that contain formaldehyde in a well-ventilated and temperature-controlled area within a healthcare unit. Immediately report safety equipment failures, such as the ventilation system, to the supervising team of a healthcare facility.