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OSHA: Helpful Reminders

Recapping Fill Needles

Q: What guidance does OSHA give on recapping fill needles?

A: OSHA is pretty blunt about recapping needles. They don’t recommend it! The Bloodborne Pathogens standard section (d)(2)(vii) states: “Contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps shall not be bent, recapped, or removed.” The violation of the OSHA standard could not only injure staff members but also cost it as much as $7,000 as a serious fine, as classified by OSHA. If an employer continues this practice, it could become a willful fine, which ups the ante to $70,000.

The use of Scalpels and Safety Needles

Q: When OSHA insists on the use of safety needles and scalpels, isn’t it overstepping its authority by telling doctors how to practice medicine?

A: That’s not how the agency sees things. With regard to the use of safety devices, OSHA says in an interpretation letter: “The intent of the OSHA standard was never to usurp the practitioner’s authority in deciding the best method of achieving a positive health outcome for a patient during a procedure. OSHA recognizes there might be unique circumstances where the safety of the patient or the integrity of a procedure might be best served with the use of a device that is not a safety device. In those situations, it is important that good work practice controls, such as eliminating hand-to-hand instrument passing in the operating room, be implemented to provide protection to employees who are at risk of getting injured by an unprotected device.” However, the agency maintains that “practitioner preference is generally not an excuse for failure to use engineering controls.”

In 2013, OSHA issued a medical practice one willful citation, with a fine of $28,000, for using non-engineered hypodermic needles instead of safer needle devices, such as needless systems and sharps with engineered sharp protections.  OSHA standards “require that the safer devices be used at all times. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

If you have any questions about the Bloodborne Pathogens standard or any other OSHA standard please do not hesitate to contact one of our professional consultants.

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