- OSHA Healthcare Advisor - http://blogs.hcpro.com/osha -

Notes from the field: You haven’t switched to safety devices, YET!

In the past few months, I have been in eight physician offices that are still using non-safety needles, lancets, or scalpels. I have heard every excuse in the book for not switching to safety devices.

I am totally shocked that one medical assistant (MA) had no clue that safety needles were supposed to be used when giving an injection. The first thing she said was “why didn’t my supply vendor tell me this?”

Truthfully, I do put part of the blame on their supply vendor. Even if the office orders a non-safety device, the vendor should ALWAYS inform the office staff about safety devices.

I did a mock OSHA inspection last week and actually walked by an exam room and saw the MA removing a scalpel blade using forceps when a disposable safety scalpel would have been a much better option.

Using safety devices is NOT optional. The Needlestick Prevention and Safety Act has been effective since November 6, 2000. Medical professionals have had 11 years to evaluate safety devices and implement the safer alternatives. Cost cannot be a reason not to switch, “I just don’t like them,” is not an excuse, and “I am the boss and don’t have to do what OSHA says.” is not a reason to use unsafe sharps.

Yes, there are a few procedures that some physicians perform where there safety devices are not commercially available. For example, there are no safety spinal needles.

OSHA considers not using safety devices a serious violation of regulations, which is clearly defined in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. A serious violation could result in a maximum fine of $7,000. A blatant disregard of the regulation could result a willful violation that could go as high as $70,000.

In addition to regular inspection efforts, OSHA currently has a regional emphasis program for the southeast states [1] to perform impromptu inspections looking for safety devices.

Bottom line my fellow healthcare workers, evaluate safety devices, find one that works for you, and switch. Keep yourself safe and help to reduce needlesticks! It is not worth the risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV.