Key strategies for combating take-home exposures

The following summary of strategies for minimizing take-home exposures was provided by Grace Paranzino, MS, RN, CHES, FAAOHN, president of the Philadelphia/Pennsylvania Association of Occupational Health Nurses:

• Medical surveillance of employees to identify exposures and specific take-home contaminants. Take inventories of specific departments to better identify what occupational health risks workers have and provide them with the proper protective equipment. Remember: It is the company’s responsibility to supply the equipment, but it’s up to the workers to wear it. Management has a visible role in trying to enforce compliance — this includes both supervisors and the health and safety team.

• Address the hierarchy of controls. When health care providers communicate this hierarchy in the workplace, it helps reduce and eliminate exposures.

• Institute appropriate education programs. This will help to inform and empower workers about potential exposures and how to protect themselves.

• Create an interdisciplinary response team. This team should include industrial hygienists, nurses, health educators, and physicians.

• Give the issue the attention it deserves: Health care providers, including occupational health nurses, need to understand and recognize the significance of take-home contamination.

• Exposure history. Companies must conduct comprehensive exposure histories to recognize and address the potential for take-home contamination, and also to inform the worker that family members or others who live in their household may become exposed.