Cytotoxic drugs are used widely in the treatment of cancers as well as other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The toxicity of cytotoxic drugs means that they can present significant risks to those who handle them. Workers may be put at risk when control measures are inadequate. Employers must assess the risks from handling cytotoxic drugs.

Exposure may be through:

  • skin contact
  • skin absorption
  • inhalation
  • ingestion
  • needle stick injuries.

Employees must also take care of their own health and safety and that of others affected by their actions. All workers have an obligation to follow the control measures put in place by their employer.

Activities which may increase exposure include:

  • drug preparation
  • drug administration
  • handling patient waste
  • transport and waste disposal
  • cleaning spills.

Risk management guide

In recognition of the potential health and safety risks from working with cytotoxic drugs, SA Health has put together a risk management guide for the handling of cytotoxic drugs and related waste.

The guide provides direction to management and workers involved in the management, preparation, transportation and administration of hazardous drugs and related wastes in South Australian hospital and/or community health settings.

The risk management model provided in the guide will enable healthcare services to assess and evaluate site-specific clinical and operational factors in the development of safe work procedures for the safe handling of other hazardous drugs.

Carcinogens authorisation

Any person using, handling or storing prohibited or restricted carcinogens must be authorised to do so.