January 3, 2024
by McKenzie Brooks

Substitute House Bill Passed to Address Surgical Smoke Hazards in Washington

Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1779 to address surgical smoke hazards in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers in hopes to establish workplace safety and health requirements pertaining to procedures producing hazardous smoke.

RCW 49.17.500 and RCW 49.17.505 took effect on January 1, 2024. As such, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers are required to have controls in place to decrease the risk of worker exposure to surgical smoke. Health care employers can expect DOSH (the Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health) to enforce the law during onsite inspection of facilities licensed by Washington State Department of Health such as hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. These employers should have policies that require the use of a smoke evacuation system during any planned surgical procedure that is likely to generate surgical smoke which could make eye contact with the eyes or respiratory tract of the occupants of the room.

Surgical smoke is a mixture of particles, gases, and chemical vapors created by tools and instruments that generate intense heat and destroy tissue during use. If there is a visible plume of smoke, there is significant hazard to the workers. Occupations most commonly impacted by surgical smoke include surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technicians. These professions are exposed to hazardous smoke generated during surgical procedures that use a laser or electrosurgical device.

RCW 19.17.500 will allow smaller hospitals with 25 or fewer beds or “sole community hospitals” by Medicare to apply for reimbursement up to $1,000 per operating room for surgical smoke equipment installed before January 1, 2025 as funding is available.

If you have any questions about the new bill or other Washington Workers’ Compensation issues, please contact me at mbrooks2sbhlegal.com or 971-867-2733.

Posted by McKenzie Brooks.