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OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents
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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

DOL Logo OSHA National News Release

U.S. Department of Labor

National News Release     USDL: 01-140
Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Contact: Bill Wright
Phone: (202) 693-1999

"Prevention is the Best Medicine"

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reaching out to educate employers, health care workers and the general public on OSHA's revision to the bloodborne pathogens standard. The revision will help reduce needlestick injuries among healthcare workers and others who handle medical sharps.

"Prevention is the best medicine," said Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. "The more emphasis we place up front on education and prevention, the better able we are to protect workers. By revising this standard, OSHA is giving employers a stronger tool to help reduce serious injuries and illnesses caused by needles and sharps."

OSHA's education effort includes a collection of written materials designed to explain specific aspects of the standard. Materials are available on OSHA's web site at

During the outreach period, OSHA will not enforce the new provisions of the standard that require employers to maintain a sharps injury log and involve non-managerial employees in selecting safer medical devices. Enforcement of these new provisions will begin on July 17, 2001. Meanwhile, enforcement will continue for requirements that employers select safer needle devices as they become available (these have been required since the bloodborne pathogens standard was effective in 1992).

"Safe needles protect workers from deadly injuries," said R. Davis Layne, Acting OSHA Administrator. "All of us want our nation's healthcare system to be as safe as possible. This rule and our accompanying education effort are a positive step in that direction."

The agency is extending its partnership efforts with other agencies, associations and labor organizations. Publications and curriculum recommendations will be used to help educate employers and workers in health care settings. For example, OSHA is drawing upon its existing partnerships with public sector and professional organizations in this effort.

OSHA is also making available a presentation package through its education centers - education and other nonprofit organizations that offer training courses for the private and public sectors.

OSHA revised the bloodborne pathogens standard as mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act. Passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law on Nov. 6, 2000, the Act directed specific revisions to the standard, including clarifying the requirement for employers to select safer needle devices as they become available and involving employees in identifying and choosing the devices.

The revised standard also requires employers with 11 or more employees to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps. A number of industries classified as low-hazard-retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors are exempt from most requirements of recordkeeping; those same industries are exempt from maintaining a sharps injury log.

The revised bloodborne pathogens standard was effective Apr. 18, 2001. OSHA is currently updating the compliance directive -- last revised in November 1999 -- which guides OSHA's compliance officers in enforcing the standard.

States and territories that operate their own OSHA-approved state programs must adopt the revisions to the federal bloodborne pathogens standard, or a more stringent amendment to their existing standards by Oct. 18, 2001. Although the original adoption date for state plan states was July 17, 2001 (six months from the date the standard was originally published in the Federal Register), an additional three months was added which coincides with the federal government's education effort.

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(The text of this news release is available on the OSHA website at
http://www.osha.gov.) Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A fact sheet on the revision to the bloodborne standard follows this press release. More comprehensive information on the revision and FAQs can be found at

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Highlights of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Revision

On Nov. 6, 2000, Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act directing OSHA to revise its bloodborne pathogens standard to describe in greater detail its requirement for employers to identify and make use of effective and safer medical devices. That revision was published on Jan. 18, 2001, and became effective April 18, 2001.

The revision specifies the types of engineering controls -- such as safer medical devices -- in the healthcare setting. It also adds two requirements for employers; but, it does not add any new requirements to protect workers from sharps injuries. The following is a summary of the revisions:

  • Two new definitions are included in the revision, while one existing term is amended:

    • Sharps with Engineered Sharps Injury Protections includes non-needle sharps or needle devices used for withdrawing fluids or administering medications or other fluids that contain built-in safety features, or mechanisms that effectively reduce the risk of an exposure incident.
    • Needleless Systems are devices that do not use needles for the collection or withdrawal of body fluids, or for the administration of medication or fluids.
    • Engineering Controls include all control measures that isolate or remove a bloodborne pathogen hazard from the workplace. The revision now specifies that "self-sheathing needles" and "safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems" are engineering controls.

  • Employers must review their exposure control plans annually to reflect changes in technology that will help eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens. That review must include documentation of the employer's consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer devices.

  • Employers must solicit input from non-managerial health care workers regarding the identification, evaluation and selection of effective engineering controls, including safer medical devices. Examples of employees include those in different departments of the facility (e.g., geriatric, pediatric, nuclear medicine, etc.).

  • Employers with 11 or more employees who are required to keep records by current recordkeeping standards, must maintain a sharps injury log. The log must be maintained in a way to ensure employee privacy and will contain, at minimum, the following information:

    • type and brand of device involved in the incident, if known;
    • location of the incident; and
    • description of the incident.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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