Needlesticks and Sharps Injuries
Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (the NSPA) in 2001. The NSPA directed OSHA to revise its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to require employers to provide safety-engineered devices to workers who are at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens, to review the control plans describing employee protection measures at least annually, and to maintain a sharps injury log.
On February 16, 2012, a study reported that prior to the NSPA’s enactment in 2001, sharps injuries were increasing. After the NSPA was enacted, sharps injuries decreased by thirty-eight percent, which suggests that the NSPA has created safer work environments for health care workers by reducing the frequency of sharps injuries.
If they haven’t done so recently, we recommend that health care providers review their bloodborne pathogens control plans and practices. A good resource is:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were sixty-nine homicides in the health care industry from 1996 to 2000. In 2000, forty-eight percent of all non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults occurred in the health care industry. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NISOH) recognizing that home health care workers are vulnerable to verbal abuse, stalking, threats of assault, and homicide, published a new resource designed to assist employers in preventing violence against home health care workers. The resource encourages employers to establish a zero-tolerance policy for violence, train workers to recognize and prevent work place violence, and provide special precautions to those home health workers working in dangerous neighborhoods.
In addition, OSHA has provided guidelines to protect health care workers from workplace violence. OSHA’s guidelines focus on helping workers identify risk factors of workplace violence and providing training and prevention programs to prevent workplace violence.
OSHCON is an OSHA program designed to provide free and confidential advice through consultants to small and medium-sized businesses. OSHCON helps employers identify potential hazards at their work sites and improve their occupational safety and health management systems. Additionally, receiving assistance from OSHCON may qualify an employer for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections.
Importantly, OSHCON is separate from OSHA’s enforcement division and does not issue citations or propose penalties. However, employers must correct all identified hazards as a condition of receiving program services.
OSHCON has proven to be popular. In 2010, OSHCON conducted over 30,000 visits to small businesses covering 1.5 million workers. In Texas, OSHCON’s services are available through the Texas Department of Insurance. See http://www.tdi.texas.gov/oshcon/. We recommend that employers take advantage of this free program.