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By May 2001, inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will start asking your employees if they are involved in selecting needlestick safety devices and will start asking to see your needlestick injury log.
The OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard was recently bolstered by the Nov. 6 passage of the Needlestick Safety Prevention Act, which added the new requirements and gives OSHA six months to amend its bloodborne pathogens standard. Providers should note: Between October 1998 and September 1999, OSHA issued 1,557 citations regarding the standard at 612 inspections. The fines totalled $1,191,849.
Added to the changes at the national level are several pieces of needlestick safety legislation that have passed at the state level. (For a list of state legislation, click here.) The federal requirements are minimal for everyone, including hospitals, surgery centers, and physician offices. If your state law is stricter than the national legislation, you must meet the stricter state requirements.
Each year, one in seven medical professionals experiences a needlestick while caring for sick or injured patients, according to OSHA. To address this problem, OSHA compliance officers will add these two requirements:
• Involve employees in selection of needlestick safety devices. The new federal law requires that employers solicit input from nonmanagerial employees responsible for direct patient care, who are potentially exposed to sharps inquiries. Those employees should help identify, evaluate, and select effective devices and work-practice controls.
Involve employees in evaluating what devices are available on the market, advises Melody Sands, director of the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at OSHA in Washington, DC.
The products can be evaluated with a trial run, suggests Robyn Silverman, project officer at Plymouth Meeting-PA based ECRI, a nonprofit organization that provides information and technical assistance to the health care community.
Employees should evaluate whether the devices are user-friendly, Sands says. "They may like one device over another because it’s easier to use or lends itself to a specific procedure," Sands says. (To see the Product Evaluation/Product Survey, click here.)
Technology has expanded tremendously in recent years, Sands and Silverman emphasize.
Silverman says, "They will be looking to make sure you’re using devices that are safe and not ones that are older, when there are better devices out there."
• Maintain a sharps injury log. Employers must maintain a sharps injury log that contains, at a minimum, the following information:
— type and brand of device involved in the incident;
— department or work area where the exposure incident occurred;
— an explanation of how the incident occurred. (To see a sample log, click here.)
Researchers will use these logs to evaluate the effectiveness of needlestick safety devices. The requirement doesn’t apply to employers with fewer than 10 employees, Sands says. The log must maintain employee confidentiality, she adds.
OSHA compliance officers will ask to see the logs, she says. "Another thing OSHA can do is that the compliance officers can ask people, Do you have any incidents recorded?’" Sands says. "That’s one way to check on the log." (For more information, see stories on needlestick safety in Same-Day Surgery, October 1999.)
For more information on requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), go to the OSHA Web site (www.osha.gov) and click on "OSHA Offices" and then "Quick Link to Regional and Area Office Map" to find a regional contact.