In settings where sterile and non-sterile hazardous drugs and materials are regularly handled, constant vigilance is necessary in the ongoing effort to keep personnel safe while controlling contaminant levels in work areas and shared spaces. While technique, PPE and engineering controls are critical in controlling accidental exposure to hazardous drugs, wipe sampling is one of the only ways to prove the efficacy of each part of the drug handling process and in turn the safety to patients and staff.
Surface wipe sampling for hazardous drugs is the most common method to ascertain the amount (if any) of antineoplastics, hormones, biologics, heavy metals, or research drugs on surfaces. In surface wipe sampling, an area of a work surface is swabbed or wiped in two overlapping directions, each perpendicular to each other. Once the sample has been collected, it is then tested through the method or methods that are most appropriate for the hazardous drugs that are of concern at the tested location.
Surface wipe testing methods include analytical procedures such as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, as well as immunochemical techniques that can assay some types of hazardous drugs rapidly, directly on-site.
Why Is Surface Wipe Sampling Important?
Surface wipe sampling plays a critical role in maintaining the health and safety of the personnel working in a pharmacy that handles hazardous drugs or drug ingredients. Wipe sampling is useful for:
- OSHA requires surface contamination monitoring for hazardous materials areas
- USP <800> recommends testing surfaces now, and may require it in the next revision
- Joint Commission has begun asking for results from HD surface samples
- Determining whether exposure to hazardous drugs is likely
- Setting benchmarks for the efficacy of facility safety and handling practices
- Illustrating the importance of proper handling techniques
For these reasons, it is important to follow proper procedures when conducting surface wipe sampling. These procedures include:
- Testing a consistent area for effective comparison between testing samples
- Following proper handling techniques for test samples
- Understanding the characteristics of the potential HD (hazardous drug) materials that may be found, and how they may degrade over time
Wipe sampling at regular intervals has been shown to increase safety and decrease the level of contaminants found over time, providing a measurable, tangible benefit to the safety of pharmacy and facility personnel. The primary challenge in wipe testing includes the amount of time required for results, since there are relatively few labs that provide these testing services. It is often not cost-effective to maintain full testing facilities on-site.
Regardless of these challenges, it is critical to conduct testing at regular intervals to remain aware of the level of contamination in the facility and whether any further action is required, as well as to introduce the positive effects of a regular testing regimen, including a demonstrated reduction in contaminant levels.
Technical Safety Services is dedicated to safety and professionalism in laboratory testing procedures, placing a paramount focus on keeping workers safe while protecting the integrity of the work in the facility. To learn more, contact us today.