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Precautionary Practices of Healthcare Workers Who Disinfect Medical and Dental Devices Using High-Level Disinfectants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2014

Scott A. Henn*
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, OH 45226
James M. Boiano
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, OH 45226
Andrea L. Steege
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, OH 45226
Address correspondence to Scott A. Henn, MS, CIH, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1090 Tusculum Avenue, R-19, Cincinnati, OH 45226 (



High-level disinfectants (HLDs) are used throughout the healthcare industry to chemically disinfect reusable, semicritical medical and dental devices to control and prevent healthcare-associated infections among patient populations. Workers who use HLDs are at risk of exposure to these chemicals, some of which are respiratory and skin irritants and sensitizers.


To evaluate exposure controls used and to better understand impediments to healthcare workers using personal protective equipment while handling HLDs.


Web-based survey.


A targeted sample of members of professional practice organizations representing nurses, technologists/technicians, dental professionals, respiratory therapists, and others who reported handling HLDs in the previous 7 calendar days. Participating organizations invited either all or a random sample of members via email, which included a hyperlink to the survey.


Descriptive analyses were conducted including simple frequencies and prevalences.


A total of 4,657 respondents completed the survey. The HLDs used most often were glutaraldehyde (59%), peracetic acid (16%), and ortho-phthalaldehyde (15%). Examples of work practices or events that could increase exposure risk included failure to wear water-resistant gowns (44%); absence of standard procedures for minimizing exposure (19%); lack of safe handling training (17%); failure to wear protective gloves (9%); and a spill/leak of HLD during handling (5%). Among all respondents, 12% reported skin contact with HLDs, and 33% of these respondents reported that they did not always wear gloves.


Findings indicated that precautionary practices were not always used, underscoring the importance of improved employer and worker training and education regarding HLD hazards.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2014;00(0): 1–6

Original Articles
© 2014 by The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. All rights reserved 

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