Course 631 - Healthcare: Surgical Suite Safety

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Other Hazards

Compressed Gases

Within a healthcare facility, compressed gases are usually either fixed piped gas systems or individual cylinders of gases.

Potential Hazard

  • Hazards with compressed gas varies based on the chemicals.
    • May include fire, explosion, and toxicity.

Possible Solutions

  • Store, handle, and use compressed gases in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.101.
  • All cylinders, whether empty or full, must be stored upright.
  • Secure cylinders of compressed gases. Cylinders should never be dropped or allowed to strike each other with force.
  • Transport compressed gas cylinders with protective caps in place and do not roll or drag the cylinders.

Smoke Plume

Laser or electrosurgical units may be required during surgical procedures. Smoke byproduct or "plume" is created when tissue is thermally destroyed. Smoke plume may contain toxic gases and vapors such as:

  • benzene
  • hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde
  • bio aerosols
  • dead and live cellular material (including blood fragments)
  • viruses

The research is limited on transmission of disease through surgical smoke, but the potential for generating infectious viral fragments, particularly during treatment of venereal warts, may exist. Researchers have suggested the smoke may act as a vector for cancerous cells which may be inhaled by the surgical team and other exposed individuals.

Smoke Plume (Continued)

Potential Hazard

  • Exposure to high concentrations of smoke may cause ocular and upper respiratory tract irritation and create visual problems for the perioperative team.
  • Smoke may contain toxic gases that could have the potential for adverse health impacts, such as mutagenic and carcinogenic impacts.

Possible Solutions

  • Use portable smoke evacuators and room suction systems with inline filters.
  • Keep the smoke evacuator or room suction hose nozzle inlet within 2 inches of the surgical site to effectively capture airborne contaminants.
  • Have a smoke evacuator available for every operating room where plume is generated.
  • Evacuate all smoke, no matter how much is generated.
  • Keep smoke evacuator "ON" (activated) at all times when airborne particles are produced during all surgical or other procedures.
  • Consider all tubing, filters, and absorbers as infectious waste and dispose of them appropriately. Use Universal Precautions as required by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard when contaminated with blood or OPIM.
  • Use new tubing before each procedure and replace the smoke evacuator filter as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Inspect smoke evacuator systems regularly to ensure proper functioning.

Hazardous Chemicals

Potential Hazard

Employees can be exposed to possible hazardous chemicals found and used in the surgical area typically during mixing, preparation, and in the operating room. These may include:

  • peracetic acid used in cold sterilant machines
  • Methyl Methacrylate (MMA)
  • an acrylic cement-like substance used to secure prostheses to bone during orthopedic surgery waste anesthetic gases

Possible Solutions

  • Mix methyl methacrylate only in a closed system.
  • Carefully read and follow instructions and warnings on labels, (e.g., when using cold sterilant machines for sterilizating equipment that cannot be autoclaved, use goggles provided and do not open machine until it is in a safe to open mode).
  • Consider using disinfectants or other products that are not hazardous.
  • Inform employees of chemical hazards and have on hand Safety Data Sheets, (SDS) for all hazardous chemicals used in their facilities.
  • Follow all SDS instructions regarding safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals.

Equipment Hazards


Potential Hazard

  • Surgical employees can be exposed to burns or shocks from poorly maintained equipment (e.g., autoclaves, warming cabinets, defibrillators).

Possible Solutions

Employers should create a safety and health program to monitor the condition of equipment and address work practices of employees. This program should include practices such as:

  • Train employees to correctly and safely use and clean equipment.
  • Maintain adequate working space and access to equipment.
  • Visually inspect equipment before using.
    • Visually inspect cords and do not use if frayed or damaged.
    • If something does not look right, do NOT use the machine and call for assistance.
  • Ensure that all electrical service equipment near sources of water are properly grounded [29 CFR 1910.304].
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment and safe work practices for assessed hazards (e.g., when handling hot items use gloves, and do not open autoclaves or sterilizers until items are sufficiently cooled).
  • Adhere to all manufacturer and operator instructions to ensure safe use of equipment.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Potential Hazard

  • falling over portable equipment of a color that visually blends into the floor
  • slipping on debris (bandages, tubing, blood, IV fluids) that had fallen or spilled on the floor
  • tripping on electrical cords that may cross floors

Possible Solutions

  • Keep all places of employment clean, orderly, and in a sanitary condition [29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1)].
  • Keep aisles and passageways clear and in good repair, with no obstructions across or in aisles that may create a hazard [29 CFR 1910.22(b)(1)].
  • Provide ceiling or floor outlets for equipment to ensure that power cords do not run across pathways.
  • Mark mobile equipment (e.g., stools) with a bright color, or a taped "X", making them more visible and distinguishable from the floor. Tape should be washable and durable.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The potential hazard associated with compressed gas includes _____.

2. When is a smoke plume created?

3. Keep smoke evacuator OFF at all times when airborne particles are produced during all surgical or other procedures.

4. When can employees be exposed to possible hazardous chemicals found and used in the surgical area?

5. Surgical employees can be exposed to burns or shocks from _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.