Ask the expert: Using safety needles in an orthopedic practice

By: May 23rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: Our orthopedic practice only gives steroid injections. Are we required to use safety needles?

A: Yes. The use of safety needles is a requirement for any healthcare facility that is subject to the Bloodborne Pathogens standard.

OSHA’s 2004 letter of interpretation, “Bloodborne Pathogens Standard application to small healthcare facilities and the annual review of the Exposure Control Plan,” explains that physician offices, clinics, and dental practices must provide safety-engineered sharps devices and needleless systems to employees.

For more on this subject, see the October 2011 Medical Environment Update feature article, “Needlestick hazards in nonhospital settings? Better believe it.”


In our multispecialty private group practice, we have some doctors who say they won’t use the safety needles as they “catch on the cuffs of their gown” and other non-reasons. What would you do? Can I let them use non-safety needles and be prepared to answer for it on a case-by-case basis should OSHA come along and see it???

By Bruce Cunha on May 29th, 2012 at 11:32 am

Implement an exception process. We allow a medical provider to give specific medical reasons that a safety needle will not work for a specific procedure.

We do not accept “I don’t like it” and we also do not allow an exception if another provider is doing the same procedure and is using a safety needle.

Document these and keep them on file.

Another recommendation is to let the department know they will be responsible for any OSHA or other regulatory fines if personnel are not following the safety needle protocol.

Thanks; this is helpful. It has been difficult for me (COHN-S) to assert any authority over physicians who feel they can do whatever they want, as they view themselves as the only money-makers in the company. Liked the part about making the department pay any fines. Money talks.


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