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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2006 Apr;3(4):182-93; quiz D45.

Pollution prevention--occupational safety and health in hospitals: alternatives and interventions.

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  • 1Department of Work Environment and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854, USA.


An integrated pollution prevention (P(2)) and occupational safety and health (OSH) worksite intervention and alternatives assessment strategy was developed in hospitals. It was called the Pollution Prevention-Occupational Safety and Health (P(2)OSH) assessment for the "Sustainable Hospitals Project." Methods included (a) developing a participatory intervention model for introducing more environmentally sound, healthy, and safe materials and work practices for specific hospital procedures; (b) developing an integrated P(2)OSH survey to evaluate environmental and occupational impacts of the intervention; and (c) conducting and evaluating interventions by applying the P(2)OSH assessment pre- and post-intervention. Eleven interventions were performed in six hospitals: an aliphatic fixative replaced xylene in three histology laboratories; a mercury reduction plan was implemented in three clinical laboratories; digital imaging replaced wet chemical film processing in three radiology departments; a less toxic aldehyde replaced formaldehyde in one hospital histopathology laboratory; and conventional mopping was replaced by microfiber mopping in one hospital. Occupational and environmental health and safety impacts were observed for all interventions. The alternatives generally were beneficial, although each had limitations that resulted in process and task changes with potentially negative P(2) and/or OSH impacts. When these were identified in the pilot phase they could be addressed before full-scale implementation. The P(2)OSH method shifts the focus of occupational and environmental hygiene from hazard control to substitution. Because few ideal alternatives exist, the emphasis is on a continuous process to identify, implement, and evaluate alternatives, rather than on a particular alternative. Occupational and environmental health and safety professionals have an important role as agents in hospital organizational change and in the search for healthier and safer alternatives. Through these activities they can become involved in the design/redesign of products, materials, and processes, thus expanding their traditional role.

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