Needle safety tops citation for hospitals

OSHA reports increase in inspections

Inspections by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rose this year, exceeding the agency’s goals for enforcement action. Of the 37,493 inspections in FY 2002, 159 occurred at hospitals, resulting in 277 citations. The bloodborne pathogen standard continued to be a major source of enforcement action at hospitals, accounting for the greatest number of citations.

"Since the incorporation of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act into OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard in 2000, heightened awareness among health care professionals regarding the requirement to use safer medical devices to protect against needlesticks has increased the number of complaints that OSHA has received from hospitals," says OSHA spokesman Bill Wright.

"That, along with the agency’s National Emphasis Program in Nursing and Personal Care Facilities, has resulted in a steady increase in the number of violations issued under the bloodborne pathogens standard since 2000," he says.

Other frequently cited areas at hospitals include lockout/tagout, electrical/wiring methods, hazard communications, and electrical systems design. Although ergonomics has yet to lead to a single citation, OSHA reported that it investigated the hazard in 63 inspections overall, which included some health care facilities. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Most of the ergonomic-related inspections are related to the Site-Specific Targeting Program, which included nursing homes. Others resulted from complaints, OSHA administrator John L. Henshaw, said at the National Ergonomic Conference in Las Vegas.

"OSHA has issued 16 ergonomic hazard letters advising employers that they needed to make changes in their workplace to reduce hazards that could lead to injuries," he said. Other inspections are still ongoing.

Henshaw also named the 15 members of the national advisory committee on ergonomics, part of the agency’s four-pronged "comprehensive approach" to ergonomics. The committee will meet two to four times a year and will evaluate ergonomic research and make recommendations on possible interventions, he said. "Each committee member brings skills and expertise that, collectively, will help the agency accelerate the decline of ergonomic-related injuries."

However, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lambasted Henshaw’s choices. "This is the first time that OSHA has put together an advisory committee that wasn’t balanced [between labor and management]," says Bill Borwegen, MPH, SEIU, occupational safety and health director. "I don’t know how they expect to get balanced advice when these committees are so unbalanced. It’s a prescription for an ineffective committee."