Here’s an update on new needlestick laws

 Not only do ED managers need to worry about regulations from the Washington, DC-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning needlestick safety. You’ll also need to comply with state and federal legislation.

Be aware of the specific requirements in your state, advises Robyn Silverman, project officer for ECRI’s Health Devices Group, a nonprofit health services research agency based in Plymouth Meeting, PA. "If your state hasn’t yet passed a law, they may pass one soon," she notes. "In any case, you still have to review your bloodborne pathogens program and needlestick prevention devices to comply with the OSHA directive."

Here’s an update on legislation:

Federal legislation.

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act is a new federal law that amends the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard. The law mandates use of safer devices and requires collection of device-specific information. Employers are required to maintain a sharps injury log with the following information:

— the type and brand of device involved in the incident;

— the department or work area where the exposure incident occurred;

— an explanation of how the incident occurred.

The information must be recorded and maintained in a way that protects the confidentiality of the injured employee.

It also requires that employers solicit the input of staff members responsible for direct patient care, who are potentially exposed to sharps injuries. Employees must be involved in identification, evaluation, and selection of effective devices. By mandating more documentation in logs of needlestick accidents and requiring staff input on the safest market devices for use in their workplace, the law is intended to protect health care workers from needlestick or sharps injuries.

This new law will impact every state, says Karen Daley, RN, MPH, president of the Canton-based Massachusetts Nurses Association. "In the 23 states with their own OSHA plan, it sets a new standard for their own OSHA requirements in the private and public sector," she notes. (See table.) "In federal OSHA states [states without their own plan], it sets the standard for employers in the private sector." Many federal OSHA states already have passed legislation to extend public sector employee protection, she notes.

State legislation.

At press time, 18 states have enacted needlestick legislation. (See article, States with Needlestick Legislation, in this issue of EDM.) California passed the first law in 1998, and New York became the 18th in early November, reports Daley. 

Table: States With Their Own Occupational
and Safety Administration Plan

• Alabama • Maryland • South Carolina
• Arizona • Michigan • Tennessee
• California • Minnesota • Utah
• Connecticut • Nevada • Vermont
• Hawaii • New Mexico • Virginia
• Indiana • New York • Washington
• Iowa • North Carolina • Wyoming
• Kentucky • Oregon