As is always the case at APHA, there are far too many fascinating presentations for one person to see – so I hope those of you who are also here in Philly will add comments about some of the sessions you’re attending and what you’re learning. Yesterday, I attended a session on health and safety in healthcare, which brought up some populations and scenarios that are too easily overlooked when discussing healthcare workers’ health and safety:

Elayne Kornblatt Phillips highlighted the risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure for hospital auxiliary workers and hospital laundry workers. Although nurses account for the majority of needlestick injuries, auxiliary and laundry workers can also be injured by improper disposal of sharps or by sharps piercing the sides of disposal containers. Laundry workers can also be exposed to bodily fluids, and their risk could be reduced by washing laundry before sorting it (rather than doing the sorting first, which is standard in the US) and running laundry through a metal detector to catch metal items tangled in sheets and gowns.

Holly Carpenter of the American Nurses Association spoke about nurses who serve as first receivers for patients exposed to chemical hazards. Although chemicals dissipate between when the exposure occurs and when the patient arrives at the hospital, and nurses don’t tend to be as heavily exposed as first responders, it’s important for them to have procedures and equipment in place to deal with these situations. Hazard vulnerability analyses, emergency management plans, incident command systems, and PPE are all important for nurses dealing with patients who’ve had acute exposures to pesticides, meth labs, workplace spills, industrial cleaners, and vehicle accidents (particularly those involving overturned tractor trailers).

Jennifer McGowan from the University of Illinois-Chicago discussed an evaluation of health and safety curricula for homecare workers, who care for elderly and disabled patients in their homes. Her team was evaluating whether different agencies’ trainings adequately address hazard control through engineering, administrative, and personal interventions. One interesting point she made was that some training programs take a client-focused rather than worker-focused view – for example, explaining how to keep clients safe from infections without also teaching about how workers can protect themselves from infections (comprehensive training will, of course, include both).

If you’ve learned something interesting at the meeting, let us know in the comments – and, of course, you can read about many more sessions at the APHA Annual Meeting Blog.