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Colorado Second State to Enact Surgical Smoke Evacuation Law

Publish Date: March 28, 2019

Governor Jared Polis signs Colorado's surgical smoke bill

On March 28, 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis took the important step to sign into law a surgical smoke bill that will protect Colorado perioperative nurses and surgical team members from the harmful effects of plume. Following in Rhode Island’s footsteps, Colorado becomes the second state in the nation to require facilities to adopt and implement a policy that prevents human exposure to surgical smoke via the use of a surgical smoke evacuation system. The new law covers all planned surgical procedures likely to generate surgical smoke.

“We are thrilled that AORN’s home state of Colorado has taken this important step to protect patients and operating room staff,” said AORN CEO/Executive Director Linda Groah MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN. “We couldn’t have done this without the hard work of the bill sponsors, Representative Buckner and Senator Rodriguez, and our AORN nurse advocates here in Colorado.”

AORN’s nurse advocates worked alongside the Colorado Nurses Association and Colorado Hospital Association to educate lawmakers about the need for uniform evacuation procedures to eliminate smoke in Colorado’s operating rooms.

“This is an important issue for Colorado hospitals because the health and safety of our staff, as well as our patients, is our top priority. We were grateful for the opportunity to work alongside AORN and the bill’s sponsors, Representative Buckner and Senator Rodriguez, to ensure that standard procedures are put in place to protect operating room staff from potentially harmful surgical smoke,” said Amber Burkhart, manager of public policy for Colorado Hospital Association. “This bill is a great example of how investing in a robust stakeholder process can help propel Colorado forward.”

Colorado History

AORN first advocated for surgical smoke-free legislation in Colorado in 2018 and took the lessons learned from that effort to ensure success in 2019. AORN perioperative nurse advocates, government affairs staff, and surgeon champion Dr. Lisa Hunsicker worked hard to engage stakeholders, broaden the coalition of supporters and get the 2019 bill introduced early in the legislative session. This year’s legislation had the support of the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Nurses Association, helping to pave the way for the bill’s adoption.

Oregon Legislation

Like Rhode Island and Colorado, Oregon’s legislature is considering legislation this year that would require facilities to implement surgical smoke evacuation policies in its operating rooms. AORN is working with stakeholders in multiple states to explore similar legislative initiatives in 2020. “OSHA’s current guidance on surgical smoke is insufficient to cause consistent use of evacuators in ORs nationwide, and it’s time for states to look closely at the issue as numbers of perioperative nurses suffering from respiratory and other disease as a result of smoke exposure continue to rise. We look forward to continuing to advocate for perioperative nurse health across the country as we see more state legislatures address this issue,” concludes Groah.