New York’s Surgical Nurses Will Soon Be Smoke-free in Their Operating Rooms


Denver, Colo.-- Legislation in New York (S.8869 (Rivera) / A.9974 (Gottfried)) advancing AORN’s efforts to mitigate surgical smoke in the workplace was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul on December 16, 2022, as Chapter 701 of the Laws of 2022. New York is the tenth state in the U.S. to enact legislation that requires all licensed hospitals and freestanding ambulatory surgical facilities to adopt policies to use a smoke evacuation system for surgical procedures that generate surgical smoke. The law will take effect on June 14, 2023.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), each year “an estimated 500,000 workers, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists, are exposed to laser or electrosurgical smoke.” This smoke, also known as plume, includes carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and a variety of trace toxic gases. Prolonged exposure can lead to serious and life-threatening respiratory diseases.

As advocates for surgical nurses’ workplace safety, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), supported by the New York Nursing Alliance and the American Nurses Association of New York among others, spearheaded the law’s passage to protect operating room staff and patients from the dangers of surgical smoke, a by-product from the use of energy-generating devices. 

“There are no specific standards for laser and electrosurgery plume hazards,” said Jennifer Pennock, associate director of AORN Government Affairs. “Instead, the safety policies have been left to the facilities and, nationwide, too few have taken action to protect their healthcare workers. We believe New York’s proactive legislation will lead other states to follow suit.”

Deborah Spratt, MPA, BSN, RN, CNOR, CHL, chair of the AORN New York State Council, expressed her appreciation to sponsors Rivera and Gottfried for their support of nurses and their work to pass legislation that insures a safe work environment.  AORN is proud to lead the way in creating a "culture of safety" for our nurses and all surgical team members in our state.”