September 6, 2005
Mr. William M. Teringo
105 Loudoun Street, S.W.
Leesburg, VA 20175
Dear Mr. Teringo:
Thank you for your June 13, 2005, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the applicability of OSHA standards to persons who self-administer injectable medications. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Thank you for clarifying your questions during a phone conversation with Ms. Dionne Williams of our office. Your questions have been rephrased followed by OSHA's response.
Question 1: Does the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) apply to persons who self-administer injections at home, in their workplaces and/or in other non-medical public settings?
Response: No. Congress passed the NSPA in part to clarify the requirements under the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard to use safer medical devices to prevent or minimize needlesticks and other sharps injuries in workplaces. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(b) (definitions of "engineering controls" and "sharps with engineered sharps injury protections") and 1910.1030(d)(2)(i) (requirement to use engineering controls). As you know, OSHA is limited to covering employers in Federal agency and private-sector places of employment (29 USC §652, 654, 668). Consumers who self-administer injections are not covered by the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard.
Question 2: Does the requirement in 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii)(B), regarding one-handed recapping of needles, apply to patients who administer their own injections?
Response: No. Please see the response to Question #1.
Question 3: Do disposal procedures outlined in OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard, such as the use of sharps containers or regulated waste bags, apply to self-injectors? What other OSHA guidelines, recommendations, specifications, or regulations are there for the disposal of used syringes in the community [i.e., at a user's home, workplace, or other non-medical public setting]?
Response: The disposal requirements at 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A) do not apply to the disposal of needles by self-injectors in private homes. Employers whose employees are exposed to self-injected needles, such as nursing homes, are obligated to comply with these requirements. However, more than half the states in the country have developed their own public health laws addressing safe disposal of syringes used by individuals in the community. Links to the states which regulate home used syringes and other useful information on safe community needle disposal are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) website at http://www.cdc.gov/needledisposal/. Additionally, you may also obtain guidance from various documents published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which are available at http://www.epa.gov.
OSHA has previously written several documents addressing discarded insulin syringes as they relate to the potential for exposure to workers. Examples of these documents include the following: 1) letters of interpretation written to address exposure to needles in the solid waste industry (Hoffman, 1/2/2003; Hoffman, 5/28/2003); 2) other letters of interpretation addressing discarded insulin syringes (Ault, 3/23/2001; McCaffrey, 5/28/1992); and 3) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) publications (Most Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 2/01/1993; [Quick Reference Guide to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard]). We have included copies of these documents for your information. These and other documents regarding OSHA policies are publicly available on OSHA's website.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Program
[Corrected on 12/08/2011]