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Changes in the federal bloodborne pathogens standard intended to reduce needlesticks among health care workers and others who handle medical sharps went into effect recently. The agency now is conducting an outreach and education effort before enforcing the new rules.
Mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s bloodborne pathogens standard were published Jan. 18, 2001, to take effect April 18, 2001. The revisions clarify the need for employers to select safer needle devices as they become available and involve employees in identifying and choosing the devices. The updated standard also requires employers to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps.
Specifically, the revised OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard obligates employers to consider safer needle devices when they conduct their annual review of their exposure control plan. Safer sharps are considered appropriate engineering controls, the best strategy for worker protection.
OSHA says involving frontline employees in selecting safer devices will help ensure that workers who are using the equipment have the opportunity for input into purchasing decisions. The new needlestick log is supposed to help both employees and employers track all needlesticks to help identify problem areas or operations. The updated standard also includes provisions designed to maintain the privacy of employees who have experienced needlesticks.
Passed unanimously by Congress, the Needle-stick Safety and Prevention Act took effect Nov. 6, 2000. It specified revisions of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard and directed the agency to make these changes within six months. The legislation exempted OSHA from certain standard rulemaking requirements so that the revised bloodborne pathogens standard could be adopted quickly. These changes now go into effect as originally scheduled.
OSHA intends to continue its educational effort through July and begin enforcing the standard after that.