News Briefs

New OSHA directive could reduce needlesticks

An updated compliance directive from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to lead to more citations for facilities that fail to evaluate and purchase safer needle devices. The directive, released on Nov. 5, 1999, should help educate compliance officers on the 1991 bloodborne pathogens standard.

According to OSHA, the directive will ensure consistent inspection procedures are followed and takes into account the wider availability of improved devices and better treatment following exposure to bloodborne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

The revised directive emphasizes the importance of an annual review of the employer’s bloodborne pathogens program and the use of safer medical devices to help reduce needlesticks and other sharps injuries. However, OSHA makes it clear that it does not advocate the use of one particular medical device over another. The directive also highlights basic work practices, personal protective equipment, and administrative controls.

The emphasis on engineering controls results from OSHA’s request last year for ideas and recommendations on ways to better protect workers from contaminated needles or other sharp objects.

OSHA administrator Charles Jeffress reported that nearly 400 health care facilities and workers contributed comments. "They told us that safe medical devices already available are effective in controlling hazards and that wider use of such devices would reduce thousands of injuries each year."

The revised directive also includes detailed instructions to compliance officers on inspections of multi-employer work sites, such as home health services, employment agencies, personnel services, physicians, and health care professionals in independent practices, and independent contractors.

Also included in the directive are decontamination requirements, guidelines on hepatitis vaccinations and post exposure treatments, and employee training.

The directive is available on the OSHA home page at You can also obtain copies from the agency’s publications office by calling (202) 693-1888.

Fellowship opportunity offered to nurse execs

Nurse executives who want to help shape the health care system of the future should consider applying for a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellowship. The three-year fellowships are open to senior-level nurses in executive roles in health services, including patient care service, integrated delivery systems, health plans, and other health organizations engaged in organizing and delivering health care; public/community health; and nursing education.

Approximately 15 Executive Nurse Fellows are selected each year. Fellows remain in their current position while participating in the program. Each is awarded a $15,000 leadership development account to support self-selected learning activities, independent study, and access to an electronic communications network. In addition, the program provides matching funds up to $15,000 each year for the first two years of the program to support a required comprehensive leadership project in the Fellow’s home institution.

The deadline for receipt of applications by the national program office is Feb. 1, 2000. For an abstract or the full text of the Call for Applications, visit The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Web site at Look for "List of Open Calls for Proposals."