Imagine you have a physician who does not want to use safety needles. He feels hypodermic needles work better with his patients. Is he allowed to use hypodermic needles? OSHA's standards require a tremendous amount of study and interpretation.
To answer this question, we first must understand what the government expects from healthcare professionals. In a recent interview, David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., who leads the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Obama administration, said:
"When it comes to health hazards, we have a standards process that is broken. The way our health and safety standards process was written 44 years ago, and then as a result of subsequent court decisions, we have a regulatory process that requires tremendous amounts of study, and that's especially true for OSHA standards."
An area that requires both study and interpretation is Needlestick Prevention. Under OSHA, employers must ensure workers follow work practices to decrease the workers' chances of contracting bloodborne diseases. For example, employers are required to consider and use safer medical devices, wherever possible. Safer medical devices include needleless devices or devices with built in protection to guard workers against contact with contaminated sharps.
Under OSHA, 1910.1030(e)(2)(ii)(I) "Hypodermic needles and syringes shall be used only for parenteral injection and aspiration of fluids from laboratory animals and diaphragm bottles. Only needle-locking syringes or disposable syringe-needle units (i.e., the needle is integral to the syringe) shall be used for the injection or aspiration of other potentially infectious materials. Extreme caution shall be used when handling needles and syringes. A needle shall not be bent, sheared, replaced in the sheath or guard, or removed from the syringe following use. The needle and syringe shall be promptly placed in a puncture-resistant container and autoclaved or decontaminated before reuse or disposal."
It is important to remember states with stricter requirements apply over the federal requirements. If the federal requirements are stricter than state requirements, the physician should follow the requirements under OSHA 1910.1030(e)(2)(ii)(I) listed above. It is important for engineering and work practice controls to be used to eliminate employee exposure. If there is a chance of occupational exposure, personal protective equipment must be used.
Applying this concept of study and interpretation to the limited facts above, it would be recommended that the physician discontinue use of hypodermic needles and use safer medical devices where appropriate. Further, the physician should be conscious of possible stricter regulations required in his/her state when using needles.
In addition to training, one of the many services we provide at Healthcare Compliance Pros is the ability to ask our professionals OSHA questions. We follow OSHA's study and interpretation standard when responding to your question and can even research state-specific issues when needed. Most questions can be answered with the reference guide on our website; however, we are here to help with questions that require a greater amount of study and interpretation.
If you have any questions about any OSHA Standards or other questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our professional consultants.