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Call to Action issued to protect healthcare workers from bloodborne disease exposures

Progress has been made since the passage of the federal Needlestick Safety and Protection Act ten years ago, yet significant challenges remain in reducing the risk of healthcare worker exposure to bloodborne pathogens, according to a March 8 joint news release [1] by the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia and the American Nurses Association.

The two organizations, along with 17 other nursing and healthcare organizations have endorsed a Consensus Statement and Call to Action [2] for future efforts on needlestick prevention.

“We view this as a roadmap for future progress in preventing needlesticks, one of the most serious occupational risks healthcare workers face,” according to Center director and UVa Professor Janine Jagger, MPH, PhD. The eight-page statement provides “a snapshot of where we are now and where further work is needed in order to continue to protect healthcare workers from this risk they face every day in the line of duty,” Jagger says.

The Call to Action focuses on five pivotal areas in need of attention:

  1. Improve sharps safety in surgical settings
  2. Understand and reduce exposure risks in non-hospital settings (which include physicians’ offices, clinics, home healthcare, and an array of other settings)
  3. Involve frontline workers in the selection of safety devices
  4. Address gaps in available safety devices, and encourage innovative designs and technology
  5. Enhance worker education and training

A recommendation included in third item on exposure risks in non-hospital settings calls for OSHA  to “promote regional emphasis programs that focus on enforcement of the BPS [Bloodborne Pathogens Standard] in non-hospital settings; further, that other relevant groups, such as accrediting and licensing bodies and healthcare and workers’ compensation insurers enhance compliance incentives for non-hospital employers.”

Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the OSHA, expressed the agency’s support, according to the news release, and noted, “The goal of this consensus statement, which is to continue the progress in reducing the risk of sharps injuries to healthcare workers, is one that is in line with OSHA’s mission.”