National News Release USDL: 99-145
Thursday, May 20, 1999
Contact: Al Belsky 202-693-4650 Bill Wright 202-693-1999
OSHA's actions based on worker, employer suggestions
LABOR SECRETARY ANNOUNCES PLANS TO COMBAT NEEDLESTICK INJURIES AMONG HEALTHCARE WORKERS
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is moving to reduce the number of injuries healthcare workers get from needles and other sharp medical objects that potentially carry bloodborne illnesses such as AIDS and hepatitis. An estimated 590,000 needlestick injuries occur each year.
Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said OSHA's action stems in part from a report issued today summarizing nearly 400 comments from health care facilities, workers and others who responded to the agency's request for information last fall. At that time OSHA asked for ideas and recommendations on ways to better protect workers from contaminated needles or other sharp objects.
"Safer needle devices mean fewer needlesticks for healthcare workers," Herman said. "It is time to make sure that healthcare workers have up-to-date medical devices that limit the risk of needlesticks and the potential for developing deadly diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis."
OSHA is pursuing a three-pronged approach to help minimize the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne diseases due to needlestick injuries.
First, the agency already proposed a requirement in the revised Recordkeeping Rule that all injuries resulting from contaminated needles and sharps be recorded on OSHA logs,
used by employers to record injuries and illnesses. Final action in the rulemaking, which will be based on OSHA's evaluation of the public rulemaking record, is scheduled for this fall.
Second, OSHA will revise the bloodborne pathogens compliance directive later this year to reflect the newer and safer technologies now available. The directive is used by OSHA's compliance officers to enforce the agency's bloodborne pathogens standard.
Third, the agency will take steps to amend the bloodborne pathogens standard by placing needlestick and sharps injuries on its regulatory agenda this fall.
"Health care workers strive to keep us healthy," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "We now have an opportunity to provide them with protection from the hazards of sharps and needlestick injuries that can threaten their health and well-being. It's time to move forward."
In its review of the comments received from the information request, OSHA found that a variety of safer devices exist that can protect workers from needlestick and sharp injuries; however, these devices are not being used widely enough to substantially reduce the hundreds of thousands of injuries each year.
Further, the report notes that training and education in the use of safer medical devices and safe work practices have proven effective in preventing exposures. Finally, responses indicate that staff involvement in the selection process plays an important role in the acceptance and proper use of safer medical devices.
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Editor's Note: The report "Record Summary of the Request for Information on Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens due to Percutaneous Injury" is available from the OSHA home page on the www.osha.gov.
This news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.