Union files OSHA complaint about needlestick safety

Citing serious concerns about needle safety at Connecticut’s largest hospital, a union representing hospital service workers has filed a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington, DC.

The complaint against Yale-New Haven (CT) Hospital, submitted by the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, cites evidence that the hospital made its selection of safety syringes based on a restrictive buying agreement with Novation, a group purchasing organization that provides hospitals with supplies. The complaint details the union’s allegation that "the hospital’s potentially dangerous practices may constitute willful violations of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard."

That standard requires that hospitals choose safety syringes based on employee feedback and device effectiveness. Instead, the union says, Yale-New Haven based its selection decision on a contractual relationship between Novation and Becton Dickinson, the world’s largest needle producer.

According to the complaint, Yale-New Haven Hospital had been using a retractable syringe called VanishPoint, made by Retractable Technologies, which has the highest safety rating from the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI) (www.ecri.org). The hospital subsequently switched to Becton Dickinson’s Safety Glide syringe, which has an "acceptable-not recommended" rating from ECRI, and has been cited as presenting a greater risk of a needlestick.

A spokesperson for Yale-New Haven did not respond to Healthcare Risk Management’s request for comment. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, needlestick injuries affect more than 700,000 health care workers each year, exposing them to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other potentially deadly diseases.