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With the recent introduction of the Health Care Worker Needlestick Prevention Act of 1999 by U.S. Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Marge Roukema (R-NJ), California law may become the law of the land.
A Stark spokeswoman told Home Infusion Therapy Management that the California law and the federal bill are "really pretty much the same." Like the Golden State’s law, the Stark bill would amend the current bloodborne pathogens standard to require that employers use needleless systems and sharps with engineered sharps protections to prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens in the workplace. Exceptions include circumstances in which currently commercially available technology does not promote employee safety, interferes with patient safety, or interferes with the success of a medical procedure.
A second requirement would mandate that employers develop written exposure control plans to identify and select existing needleless systems and sharps with engineered sharps protections and other methods of preventing the spread of bloodborne pathogens. Employers also would have to train direct care health care workers adequately on the use of needleless technologies and systems with engineered sharps protection.
Broader reporting requirements
The Stark bill also will expand the current reporting requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
"California collects more information than we do currently through OSHA requirements," according to the Stark spokeswoman. "Today, you don’t have to report all needlesticks, just those that are [possibly] contaminated. There will be much broader requirements [under this bill], and it will be very specific what you must report."
Information such as type of device, type of health care worker, and the situation of the needlestick could be required. However, providers will not have to submit the information regularly. Instead, providers will be required to collect the data and keep it on file so if OSHA inspectors request the information, it is readily available.
The bill also proposed to establish a clearinghouse within the National Institute for Occupa tional Safety and Health (NIOSH) to collect data on engineered safety technology designed to help prevent the risk of needlesticks and other sharps injuries. NIOSH would have access to the sharps injury logs in order to carry out those duties. The clearinghouse also would create a model training curriculum for employers and health care workers. However, the bill calls for $15 million in new funding for the three tasks.
The bill appears to be on the fast track. There are already 41 co-sponsors for the bill as of press time, with bipartisan support and no outspoken opponents.
"We haven’t seen anyone actively lobbying against this," says the spokeswoman. "But we have seen pretty wide-based support. We really feel that the time has come. If California can do this, the federal government should be able to do this."
OSHA not waiting
If the Stark bill doesn’t manage to wend its way into law, OSHA doesn’t appear to be waiting. OSHA administrator Charles Jeffress recently announced that the agency plans to strengthen its current requirement that health care facilities evaluate their policies on the use of safety devices.
OSHA also recently released an analysis of current practices regarding needlestick safety and the financial impact of making changes. The report notes that conventional IV catheters for IV access cost 75 cents, while safer catheters cost $1.75. For a 250- to 300-bed hospital to switch, the report estimates additional costs of $33,500 a year.