Reasons to Monitor Ethylene Oxide
Chemical Sterilants, such as Ethylene Oxide, are essential for sterilization of medical equipment and for the safe delivery medical equipment through the supply chain. Unfortunately, worker exposure to these chemicals pose significant risks and regulations.
The most effective way to protect workers from Ethylene Oxide exposure is continuous, around-the-clock gas monitoring systems, and here is why:
Ethylene Oxide is highly toxic and poses serious health risks.
Ethylene Oxide is designed to kill all microorganisms, including resistant spores in certain bacteria. If it was not toxic, it would not be effective at doing its number one job. Many studies have associated a variety of adverse health conditions - cancer in animals, adverse reactions to pregnancy, fluid buildup in lungs, irritation of eyes, nose and throat - to the exposure of ethylene oxide.
Source: Hospital & Health Networks
Source: Section 17 of OSH Act
It is the law to provide a safe work environment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) outlines legalized regulations and standards for chemical sterilization, including a clause that permits them to prosecute employers who are complacent. Employers are also required to alert employees of any leaks. Employers should reference and take into consideration permissible exposure limits (PELs) outlined by OSHA, threshold limit values (TLVs) put in place by the American Conference of Government and Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), NIOSH recommended exposure limits and EPA's acute exposure guideline levels (AEGLs). Creating the safest work environment is key to avoiding penalties and greater insurance premiums considering OSHA can conduct random inspections and act in response to employee complaints.
It pays to monitor.
Monitoring your environment is step one when it comes to safety, so that you can put the right procedures in place if your department/facility has high exposure readings. Here are some stats to show how monitoring pays :
ROI of $3 to $6 for every $1 invested
Higher employee morale, less turnover
Stronger public image as a safety and health leader
Processes and procedures can fail.
Just as a car can suddenly break down and fail at any time, so too can sterilization equipment - especially the more it's used. Even with the best intentions, busy workers are human and make mistakes that can lead to failed processes, chemical residue and vapor exposure.
The only way to keep employees safe from the equipment they use and accidents they may cause themselves, is chemical monitoring.
"It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness. These injuries can end up destroying a family's emotional and financial security."
Safety and Health Administration
Smell is not a reliable detection method.
Our sense of smell is great for determining if a piece of fish is fresh, but not for determining if the ethylene oxide vapor concentration exceeds 1 ppm. In fact ethlylene oxide has no smell until it reaches close 200 ppm.
There is no such thing as a harmless sterilant chemical. They are designed to kill all life. Anywhere using ethylene oxide must protect themselves and their workers by putting forth maximum efforts dedicated to safety. Facilities that proactively and continuously monitor their working environment for hazardous chemical leaks and vapors, while instituting employee training, engineering controls and regular equipment maintenance, are setting the standard for protecting workers.