Many busy healthcare providers know how important it is to prevent needlesticks, but they will draw a blank when asked to explain the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000. Why do we have to follow it? Just like the requirement to wear a seat belt when you drive, following the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act is not a choice; it is a requirement.
A sharp is any device that can puncture or cut the skin, such as needles, syringes, or lancets. Sharps are regulated because of their potential for spreading bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as 88% of all sharps injuries can be prevented using safety devices and better work practice controls.
So, what are the requirements?
- Employers must provide and enforce the use of engineering controls such as safety needles, syringes, sharps containers, blade removers, needle recappers, etc., that have the best possible safety design available for preventing accidental sticks. A good way to start your compliance is to become aware of what is currently in use in your practice. Create an inventory of the sharps using the Sharps Inventory form on the TMC website. Let your consultant know if you need any assistance. Employers must consider product technological innovations, design and appropriateness to the procedures performed when considering a new safety device. Employees must be trained on the use of any new safety device implemented. Safety devices are required to be in use when available and when appropriate.
- Employers must implement and enforce work practice controls and update their exposure control plans annually to ensure that the best technology is being considered and used. This would include following the standards for the use of sharps containers, transporting contaminated instrument and the use of needleless systems. Employers are required to train employees on any new work practice control implemented.
- Employers must solicit non-managerial input for the safer devices and practices considered for use. Simply deciding that one is not convenient or too costly is not an acceptable reason for not using a safety device and could result in an OSHA fine, or worse, a needlestick. Employers are required to document how they received input by their employees. (Annual Review Sharps Safety Program form is available on the TMC website.
- Employers should maintain a record of sharps injuries. (Employee Incident Report and Sharps Injury Log forms are available on the TMC website.) Employee sharps injury records must be maintained in a manner that protects the privacy of employees and should not be kept in the OSHA manual. Reviewing injury reports is a great way of assessing needs, use and ways sharps are handled in a facility.
For more information and resources, refer to:
- Your TMC consultant
- TMC website totalmedicalcompliance.com
- OSHA website: osha.gov/SLIC/bloodbornepathogens/evaluation.html
CDC website: www.cdc.gov/niosh/stopsticks Stop Sticks Campaign