OSHA Answers Questions Regarding The Needlestick Prevention Act

Does the standard apply to public sector (State and local government) employees? Federal OSHA standards do not apply to public sector employees, but the 24 states and two territories that operate OSHA-approved state plans are required to enforce an “at least as effective” standard in the public sector. Does the “Needlestick Act” apply to me? OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, including its 2001 revisions, applies to all employers who have employees with reasonably anticipated occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). These employers must implement the applicable requirements set forth in the standard. Some of the new and clarified provisions in the standard apply only to healthcare activities, but some of the provisions, particularly the requirements to update the Exposure Control Plan and to keep a sharps injury log, will apply to non-healthcare as well as healthcare activities. By what date do we have to implement safer medical devices? The requirement to implement safer medical devices is not new. However, the revised standard further clarifies what is meant by “engineering controls” in the original 1991 Bloodborne Pathogens standard by adding language to the definition section of the standard that reflects the development and availability of new safer medical devices over the last decade. The 1991 standard states, “engineering and work practice controls shall be used to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.” The revision defines Engineering Controls as “controls (e.g., sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems) that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace.” Consequently, you should already have safer devices in place. If you have not already evaluated and implemented appropriate and available engineering controls, you must do so now. Also, employees with occupational exposure to blood and OPIM must be trained regarding the proper use of all engineering and work practice controls. What if I’ve never had an employee experience a needlestick, do I still need to use safer devices? Yes. OSHA standards are intended to be implemented as a means to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. In order to most effectively avoid percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps, employees must use engineering controls, including safer medical devices. How many non-managerial employees do I need to include in the process of choosing safer medical devices? Small medical offices may want to seek input from all employees when making their decisions. Larger facilities are not required to request input from all exposed employees; however, the employees selected should represent the range of exposure situations encountered in the workplace (e.g., pediatrics, emergency department, etc.). The solicitation of employees who have been involved in the input and evaluation process must be documented in the Exposure Control Plan. Does OSHA have a list of available safer medical devices? No. OSHA does not approve or endorse any product. It is your responsibility as an employer to determine which engineering controls are appropriate for specific hazards, based on what is appropriate to the specific medical procedures being conducted, what is feasible, and what is commercially available. What if a safer option is not available for the medical device that I use? A key element in choosing a safer medical device, other than its appropriateness to the procedure and effectiveness, is its availability on the market. If there is no safer option for a particular medical device used where there is exposure to blood or OPIM, you are not required to use something other than the device that is normally used. During your annual review of devices, you must inquire about new or prospective safer options and document this fact in your written Exposure Control Plan. With increasing medical technology, more devices are becoming available for different procedures. If no engineering control is available, work practice controls shall be used and, if occupational exposure still remains, personal protective equipment must also be used. http://www.osha.gov

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OSHA Answers Questions Regarding The Needlestick Prevention Act

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