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A safer method of needle removal?
Company pitches product to hospital market
A manufacturer of needle removal and disposal devices is seeking to expand the company's marketing niche by appealing to hospitals that are seeking to cut costs.
Prohibitions on removing needles from devices limits the potential use of needle removal devices in hospitals, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) told QCare International, a Marietta, GA-based manufacturer. Yet William Butler, president of QCare, maintains that there is still a place for his product in hospitals.
"Our solution is much less expensive than safety syringe. You can use a conventional syringe and remove it at the time of use," Butler says. "It will be safer, because the needle doesn't exist so it can't stick anybody, and it can't be reused."
Not so fast, says Dionne Williams, MPH, senior industrial hygienist, in OSHA's Office of Health Enforcement. OSHA requires hospitals to use safety-engineered devices unless they are not available or not medically feasible, she explains. "This is a few steps behind where technology is right now," Williams adds.
Butler sought to clarify the potential use of needle removers in hospitals with a request for interpretation from OSHA. The hand-held needle disposal devices heat the needles to 2,700 degrees, disinfecting while the needle is melted off. The remaining syringe has no protruding needle, Butler says. The device is often used by insulin-dependent diabetics who need a safe way to dispose of their needles in their homes.
OSHA states position
Richard Fairfax, director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, noted that the Blood-borne Pathogen Standard prohibits needle removal in health care settings:
"The standard provides an exception where an 'employer can demonstrate that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure.' The standard goes on to provide: 'such bending, recapping, or needle removal must be accomplished through the use of a mechanical device or a one-handed technique' [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii)(B)].
"For the limited circumstances where these criteria are met, the [QCare device] appears to be a type of mechanical removal device that could be considered," Fairfax said in the Letter of Interpretation, noting that OSHA does not endorse products.
Addresses injuries during disposal
Needle removers primarily address the needlestick risk during disposal of a syringe, but that accounts for only about 7.8% of injuries, says Jane Perry, MA, associate director of the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
"This would be a relatively small fraction of injuries that this device would address," she says. "Most, if not all, health care institutions have implemented safety devices, and you can't use these devices with safety devices.
"There are some classes of devices where a reasonable safety alternative hasn't been devised," adds Perry. "I don't know if this device could be used with some of those kinds of needles."
The needle removal device might be appropriate to use with pre-filled, multidose syringes of medication that must be reinjected but don't have a safety device, says Williams.