Waste anesthetic gases or WAGs refer to vapors that fill a room where a medical procedure is taking place. Medical healthcare professionals who work in clinics, operating theatres, veterinary clinics, and dental offices are exposed to these deadly gases on a regular basis, and as such, are at risk of occupational illnesses.
These harmful waste gases include halogenated agents such as desflurane and enflurane as well as nitrous oxide. Prolonged exposure can lead to:
- Birth defects
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Healthcare workers are exposed to these deadly gases in a number of different ways. Some of these include:
- When anesthetic gas leaks from vaporizers as they are being refilled
- During the initial check of the anesthesia system
- If WAGs leak from an ETT (endotracheal tube) or laryngeal mask airway that is fitted to a patient. This can happen if the wrong size is used and if the cup is not inflated properly.
- If WAGs leak from an improperly fitted anesthesia mask
- If there is a leak in the anesthesia system
- If there is a leak in the system between the cylinder filled with nitrous oxide and the yoke
- When the anesthesia system is flushed after a medical procedure is completed
- If there is poor ventilation in the room where the medical procedure is taking place
- Leakage from gaskets and tubing
Who is Most at Risk from WAGs?
The following medical personnel are exposed to waste anesthetic gases on a regular basis:
- Operating room nurses
- Operating room technicians
- Recovery room nurses
The Role of Employers in Reducing Risk
Like all employees, medical personnel have the right to a safe work environment. Employers can reduce their risk of falling ill from waste anesthetic gases by:
- Creating and implementing a health and safety program that can reduce exposure and control risks
- Labeling all cylinders that comprise of anesthetic agents
- Make MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) available 24/7
- Train all medical personnel as per OSHA hazard safety standards
- Create and maintain a hazard communication plan
- Implement a scavenging system that delivers anesthetic agents to ensure all waste gases are filtered out. The exhaust should be placed in areas where those gases will not return into operating rooms.
- Installing a ventilation system that can circulate and replace the air in a room at least 6 times every hour
- Maintaining anesthesia equipment and machines on a regular basis
- Maintaining waste gas scavenging systems to reduce risks of leaks
- Training employees in hazard awareness and controlling anesthetic agents
- Compiling data on all anesthetic agents that are being used by medical personnel
- Creating comprehensive information programs for employee training
- Clearly outlining emergency procedures regarding safe work practices
- Training personnel on how to use PPE or personal protective equipment that can keep them from inhaling waste anesthetic gases
- Detailing the use of constant monitoring services for the safety of medical personnel
HAZWOPER Training by 360Training
Waste anesthetic gases affect medical personnel across the nation, leading to an increasing downtime trend in the medical field. By signing up for 360Training’s HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) course, employers can reduce those risks significantly. The guidelines provided in the course teach students how to work in hazardous waste sites without compromising their safety and health. The training also helps participants determine related hazards before it is too late.
Students can opt for the HAZWOPER 8-Hour Annual Refresher Plus GHS Hazardous Communication course to learn proper hazardous waste removal techniques. The course covers 8 hours and is comprised of 9 sections that are based on workplace hazards.
They can also choose the HAZWOPER 40 Hour Plus GHS Hazardous Communication course which covers 24 sections. Students who choose the second course will be taught how to use different types of respirators, list elements of site security, identify types of air monitoring, identify confined space hazards, and understand the need for decontaminations.
Sign up for the course today!