Minimizing EtO Exposure When Changing Gas Cylinders
User Experience Network™ [Health Devices Jul-Aug 1989;18(7-8):290]
On removing an EtO hose while changing a 140 lb ethylene oxide (EtO) gas
cylinder, two staff members were sprayed with EtO from a failed shut-off valve.
Apparently, the valve failed to close when it was screwed completely down to the OFF
position, resulting in a leak. How can exposure to EtO be minimized from such failures,
which are unpredictable?
While we recognize that shut-off valve failures can happen, this is the
first such report that we have received. We do not believe that such incidents occur
frequently. However, we recommend that the following precautions and actions be taken
whenever an EtO cylinder is changed or other maintenance activity is conducted in which
EtO exposure is possible:
- Employees must always wear a suitable respirator.
The type of respirator required can be determined by referring to the OSHA
EtO Standard C.F.R. § 1910.1047, which defines respirator requirements
based on previous exposure monitoring levels. The complete standard can be
found in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). A full-facepiece
respirator will also provide effective eye protection.
- Employees must wear an impermeable coverall and
heavy neoprene rubber work gloves to prevent skin contact. We recommend
disposable suits; however, if reusable coveralls are used, they must be
replaced or repaired when they become torn or damaged. Clean garments must
be provided to ensure adequate protection.
- In case of an EtO leak, immediately exit the area and alert all
employees in the department to evacuate the premises. Re-enter the area only
when wearing a self-contained, air-supplied respirator. Other types of
respirators may be adequate for tank changing; however, they may not provide
adequate protection during an uncontrolled release of EtO. Contaminated
clothing and shoes should be immediately removed and discarded in compliance
with federal and state hazardous waste disposal guidelines. Contaminated
clothing should be removed while under an emergency deluge shower. All
persons exposed to EtO in this type of incident should be examined by a
physician as detailed in the OSHA EtO Standard.
- Medical Gas Cylinders [16-501]
- Sterilizing Units, Ethylene Oxide [13-740]
Cause of Device-Related Incident
Device factor: Device failure
Mechanism of Injury or Death
Burn (chemical); Exposure to hazardous gas