AORN Launches Surgical Smoke Petition Drive to OSHA
Association Ramps Up Advocacy for Healthcare Worker Safety
DENVER, August 11, 2021 – As the leading advocate for the safety of perioperative nurses and surgery patients, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has launched a national petition urging the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue regulations requiring worker and patient protections from harmful surgical smoke.
Like cigarette smoke, surgical smoke can be seen and smelled. It is produced during most surgical procedures when lasers and electrocautery devices are used to dissect tissue and stop bleeding.
Numerous studies confirm the smoke contains hazardous chemicals toxins, bacteria and live viruses, and in some cases, carcinogens and agents that cause genetic mutations.
The healthcare consequences for surgical team members– who work long hours in the OR during consecutive procedures – are well documented: from headaches and dizziness to serious respiratory illness, asthma, and allergic reactions. Perioperative nurses report twice as many respiratory problems compared to the general population. More recent studies have also associated cancer and reproductive hazards to surgical smoke.
In 1988, OSHA, which has authority to enforce workplace safety, issued an alert about the health hazards from surgical smoke, but no regulations. The Joint Commission’s Quick Safety Issue 56: Alleviating the Dangers of Surgical Smoke , describes research findings on the potential harm from surgical smoke.
Smoke evacuation technology is now available to capture the smoke generated during these procedures and is in use in some hospitals around the country, but not universally.
“AORN and our members would like to see more widespread use of these devices,” says Jennifer Pennock, MS, AORN Associate Director of Government Affairs. “We have been advocating for years to eliminate surgical smoke from operating rooms by urging states to pass laws requiring the use of smoke evacuation systems, and we are calling on OSHA to step in now and support this effort as well.”
In 2018, Rhode Island became the first state to enact such legislation, followed by Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon. Illinois may follow suit soon and other states are moving down the long path toward legislative action.
“Surgical smoke is one of the most serious health risks faced by members of the surgical team on a daily basis. We hope with this petition drive, and our advocacy efforts in states across the country, we can demonstrate our commitment to achieving a safe surgical environment in all hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers,” says AORN CEO/Executive Director Linda Groah MSN RN CNOR NEA-BC FAAN.
AORN encourages all health care professionals – and their family members and friends throughout the nation who care about their health – to sign the petition. It is accessible from this link . AORN will deliver the petition to OSHA in November in honor of Perioperative Nurses Week, Nov. 14-20, 2021.
Founded in 1949, AORN unites and empowers leading surgical nurses, health care organizations and industry in working together to define standardized practice in the operating room. As the world’s largest professional association for perioperative nurses, the association’s evidence-based guidelines, continuing education and clinical practice resources lead to optimal outcomes in patient care. AORN makes surgery safe for every patient, every time.
Ellen Beth Levitt