Thursday, September 10, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
Serious Illness or Death Can Result
OSHA SEEKS INFORMATION ON ADDITIONAL
WAYS TO ELIMINATE OR GREATLY REDUCE
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is
asking for information on additional ways to better protect health
care workers from contaminated needles or other sharp objects.
Such injuries can cause serious illness or death from bloodborne
pathogens such as the hepatitis B virus, the human immunodeficiency
virus, which causes Acquired Immunodefiency Syndrome (AIDS),
and the hepatitis C virus.
"Health care workers help us all get well and stay healthy. We want
them to know we care about their personal health and safety, too,"
said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
Charles N. Jeffress. "We've received many suggestions for reducing
injuries caused by needlesticks. To determine the best strategies,
we must begin by gathering information systematically to find out
what measures are effective in the workplace."
Hepatitis B infection among health care workers has been estimated
to have sharply declined since OSHA promulgated its bloodborne
pathogens standard on Dec. 6, 1991, from about 5,000 new infections
in 1991 to 800 new infections in 1995. The incidence rate of hepatitis
B infections among health care workers is now lower than the incidence
rate for the general U.S. population.
However, injuries from needlesticks and other sharp objectives
continue to be of occupational health concern because of the frequency
with which they occur and the severe health effects they can produce.
An estimated 600,000 such injuries occur annually in the workplace.
While serious illness and possibly death can be a direct result of
contracting a bloodborne disease, other effects can occur which less
readily come to mind. In addition to the risk of disease transmission,
workers may suffer from the side effects of drugs used to treat the
diseases and from psychological stress due to the threat of infection
after an exposure occurs.
In response to these problems, OSHA is seeking information on
strategies that have been successfully implemented in the work
environment for eliminating or minimizing contaminated sharps injuries,
and particularly on the use of safer medical devices designed to limit
the risk of such injuries. In using the term "safer medical device,"
the agency is referring to the wide variety of implements designed to
reduce the risk of needlesticks and other sharps injuries through such
measures as substitution (using another device in place of a needle such
as a needle-free IV connector), modification of the device to reduce
the hazard (as with a blunt suture needle), or incorporation of safety
features (as with a retractable-needle syringe). All responses received
will be carefully reviewed and will assist OSHA in determining
effective approaches to reduce these injuries and what role the Agency
may have in these approaches.
Responses or comments should be postmarked on or before Dec. 8, 1998.
They should be submitted in quadruplicate or one original (hard copy) an
one diskette (5 1/4 or 3 ½ inch) in WordPerfect 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 8.0 or
ASCII, to the Docket Officer, Docket No. H370A, Room N-2625, U.S.
Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20210, telephone (202) 219-5046. Comments of 10 pages or
more may be transmitted by fax to
(202) 219-5046, provided the original and three copies are sent
to the Docket Office later.
Notice of the request for information is published in the Wednesday,
Sept. 9, 1998, Federal Register. The text of the notice, and the
hyperlink to submit electronic comments, can be found on the
OSHA homepage at http://www.osha.gov. (Once on the homepage,
click on "Federal Register;" click on "date of publication;" and finally,
click on "1998.")