Needlestick hazards in nonhospital settings? Better believe it

By: October 10th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Despite the volume and complexity of procedures, ­hospitals don’t have a monopoly on needle­stick and sharps injuries suffered by healthcare workers. In the October issue of Medical Environment Update, healthcare safety experts show how hazards are present, injuries happen, and OSHA compliance is low in nonhospital settings. 

Here is an excerpt:

A needlestick is a needlestick is a needlestick
Not too far into her part of the “Achieving Sharps Safety Compliance in Non-Hospital Healthcare Settings,” presentation, Elise M. Handelman, RN, MEd, an occupational and environmental health consultant who worked in OSHA for nearly 20 years, quoted from OSHA’s Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens:

Where engineering controls will reduce employee exposure by removing, eliminating, or isolating the hazard, they must be used.

And that applies to nonhospital settings, period, Handelman added.

She explained that the engineering controls section of the standard requires employers to seek input from frontline workers in identifying, evaluating, selecting, implementing, and training on safety devices.

“A needlestick is a needlestick is a needlestick, regardless of where it happens, and the goal of the standard is to reduce or eliminate those occurrences,” said Handelman.

It is a common misconception that small employers are not covered. “Any private business with even one employee is still covered by the standard if there is a reasonable expectation that their employees are exposed to blood or OPIM,” she said.

Another point of confusion on Bloodborne Pathogens coverage concerns recording and reporting requirements. “OSHA does say that if you have less than 10 employees, you do not have to keep OSHA logs, which includes the sharps injury log,” Handelman explained. However, all other provisions apply.

In addition to OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens citations, Handelman identified other costs of noncompliance:

  • Increased insurance rates if self-insured
  • Potential workers’ compensation costs
  • Potential legal action from workers or unions
  • Lost employee work time due to testing or treatment
  • Expenses related to temporary or permanent replacement workers
  • Bad press

Lost work time and additional expenses for replacing workers pose particular difficulties for small healthcare facilities, she notes.

Compliance in the use of safety needles and sharps makes for a safer, more healthful work environment. Handelman lists the following example benefits:

  • Lower workers’ compensation costs
  • Better CMS and Joint Commission surveys
  • Enhanced worker productivity with fewer days lost
  • •Increased recruitment and retention of skilled workers, keeping facilities competitive

Recruitment and retention of workers is important in all healthcare settings, including nonhospital settings, said Handelman.

The feature article also includes sections on:

Also appearing in October issue of Medical Environment Update:

  • CDC reports on healthcare worker flu shots
  • OSHA fines for nursing care, home healthcare, and medical and dental laboratories
  • Self-inspection notes: Mercury spills still a healthcare hazard
  • California dental practices have new IC regulations
  • Q&A on hepatitis B vaccinations in assisted living facilities, sharps disposal containers in public rest rooms, compliance on safety scalpels
  • A true/false quiz designed to test your understanding of OSHA standards and government regulatory guidelines that apply to healthcare facilities. (Download from the Tools page.)

For information subscribing to Medical Environment Update, click on the links below.

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