Needlestick injuries and other sharps-related injuries which expose workers to bloodborne pathogens continues to be an important public health concern. Workers in many different occupations are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS. First aid team members, housekeeping personnel in some settings, nurses and other healthcare providers are examples of workers who may be at risk of exposure.
Bloodborne Pathogens is addressed in standards specifically for the general industry The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act oblige the use of engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The Exposure Control Plan shall reflect changes in technology that eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Document annually consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure. Solicit input from non-managerial employees responsible for direct patient care, who are potentially exposed to injuries from contaminated sharps, in the identification, evaluation, and selection of effective engineering and work practice controls and shall document the solicitation in the Exposure Control Plan. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard in 1991 because of a significant health risk associated with exposure to viruses and other microorganisms that cause bloodborne diseases. Of primary concern are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses.
The standard sets forth requirements for employers with workers exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials. In order to reduce or eliminate the hazards of occupational exposure, an employer must implement an exposure control plan for the worksite with details on employee protection measures. The plan must also describe how an employer will use a combination of engineering and work practice controls, ensure the use of personal protective clothing and equipment, provide training , medical surveillance, hepatitis B vaccinations, and signs and labels, among other provisions. Engineering controls are the primary means of eliminating or minimizing employee exposure and include the use of safer medical devices, such as needleless devices, shielded needle devices, and plastic capillary tubes.
Nearly 10 years have passed since the bloodborne pathogens standard was published. Since then, many different medical devices have been developed to reduce the risk of needlesticks and other sharps injuries. These devices replace sharps with non-needle devices or incorporate safety features designed to reduce injury. Despite these advances in technology, needlesticks and other sharps injuries continue to be of concern due to the high frequency of their occurrence and the severity of the health effects.
1. What is the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act?
The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (the Act) (Pub. L. 106-430) was signed into law on November 6, 2000. Because occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from accidental sharps injuries in healthcare and other occupational settings continues to be a serious problem, Congress felt that a modification to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was appropriate (29 CFR 1910.1030) to set forth in greater detail (and make more specific) OSHA's requirement for employers to identify, evaluate, and implement safer medical devices. The Act also mandated additional requirements for maintaining a sharps injury log and for the involvement of non-managerial healthcare workers in evaluating and choosing devices. 2. How does the "Needlestick Act" apply to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard?
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