Health and Safety at the Workplace – Preventing healthcare workers’ exposure to dangerous chemical risk factors!Posted on April 26, 2016
Prevention of healthcare professionals exposure to dangerous chemicals, such as cytotoxic was discussed today in a high-level workshop hosted by the MEPs Siôn Simon and Anna Záborská at the European Parliament. This is a crucial topic for healthcare professionals dealing with the area of oncology and it affects nurses in particular as they are the most exposed being the frontline profession, next to the patients 24/7.
The challenges Europe is facing today, namely as regards the health sector economic recession, have brought upfront a significant impact of healthcare workers’ safety and health. Unfortunately, up till now far too little has been done at EU level to tackle this situation. But it is now time to take action!
In this debate, the EFN believes that vulnerable groups, like nurses, being usually in high exposure of risks such as dangerous or toxic materials, needle-stick injuries, or contamination, should be addressed specifically. More than ever it is essential to make sure that the healthcare professionals are fully protected from totally unacceptable and life-threatening risks as chemical risk factors, in particular during activities as the preparation of cytotoxic drugs used to treat patients with cancer. Mobility is also part of the equation. Being the most mobile in the EU, nurses deserve here again special attention, as national safe working procedures might differ from one country to another.
It is therefore time for the EU and national policy makers to take concrete actions to make sure that occupational safety and health policies are implemented at local, regional and national levels, and to invest in the EU workforce as the main driver for change and innovation to effectively cope with the challenges the economic downturn has brought upfront. MEP Siôn Simon concluded the event by stressing that “it is outrageous that a problem that has been identified since the ‘80s and for which a solution is known for 30 years now is still not being tackled in an appropriate way”. EU discussions are focusing on determining and ensuring the EU workforce has the right skills and competencies to match labour needs effectively, BUT only a healthy workforce that feels safe at the workplace would be able to make this happen!
As we all very well know, many EU Member States are suffering nursing shortages, and one of the reasons why nurses leave the profession early is the occupational safety risks that they face every day. In this case the risks are very harmful including increased chances of being diagnosed with cancer and even spontaneous abortion and stillborn children. Nurses, more than any other profession, know very well the risks incurred on their daily working lives. And this is not only a reality in healthcare settings but also in primary and community care.