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Evaluating OSHA's ethylene oxide standard: employer exposure-monitoring activities in Massachusetts hospitals from 1985 through 1993.
Am J Publ Health 1997 Jul; 87(7):1119-1125
An analysis of the compliance with the OSHA ethylene-oxide (75218) standard by the sterilization departments in 92 Massachusetts hospitals was performed. The 1984 OSHA standard specified that the 8 hour (hr) time weighted average (TWA) exposure to ethylene-oxide should not exceed 1 part per million (ppm) and that the action level (AL) should be 0.5ppm. Worksites using ethylene-oxide were required to perform exposure monitoring. The standard was revised in 1988 to include a 5ppm short term exposure limit (STEL). The managers of the ethylene-oxide sterilization operations at these hospitals were surveyed by mail, telephone, and through on site interviews to obtain information on specific monitoring activities in their departments. As of 1993, 95% of the hospitals reported performing 8hr monitoring at least once in compliance with the OSHA standard. Most hospitals did not perform ethylene-oxide monitoring until some time after the 1985 deadline. Only 43% of the hospitals reported monitoring at the 0.5ppm AL. By 1993, 66% of the hospitals reported installing ethylene-oxide systems to comply with the standard's alert requirement. However, there was great variability in the levels at which the alarms were set, ranging from 0.5 to 50ppm. Installation of the alarms lagged behind the 1985 deadline and peaked only after a series of ethylene-oxide citations were issued by OSHA. From 1990 through 1992, 23% of the hospitals reported having exceeded the AL and 24% reported having exceeded the STEL at least once. More than half of the hospitals reported accidental overexposures to ethylene-oxide at least once since 1985 and 33% reported accidental overexposures between 1990 and 1992. In only one incident was personal exposure monitoring reported. The authors conclude that this statewide evaluation has shown widespread, but as yet incomplete, implementation of the exposure monitoring requirement of OSHA's ethylene-oxide standard.
NIOSH-Publication; NIOSH-Grant; Grants-other; Occupational-exposure; Epoxides; Disinfectants; Environmental-health-monitoring; Regulations;
Issue of Publication
Other Occupational Concerns; Grants-other
American Journal of Public Health
Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division