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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

No. 1 OSHA citation in hospitals: Bloodborne pathogens

Thirteen years after the federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act required health care employers to use safer sharps devices, hospitals are still more frequently cited for violations of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard than any other occupational health and safety regulation.

Yet even as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration placed greater emphasis on enforcement nationally, inspections remain a rarity at U.S. hospitals, according to a data review by Hospital Employee Health. About 4% of hospitals had an OSHA inspection that resulted in a citation in Fiscal Year 2013. Hospitals received only .2% of all federal OSHA citations and .7% of all state OSHA citations. About one in eight American workers are in the health care industry, including about 4.8 million in hospitals. Bloodborne pathogen compliance is a continuing focus for OSHA.

About one-third of all hospital inspections by federal OSHA resulted in bloodborne pathogen citations in Fiscal Year 2013. The most common problems: Failure to update the exposure control plan each year, including a review of new devices or procedures, and failure to include frontline workers in the evaluation of devices or update of the plan. The operating room remains an area of concern, as surgeons remain reluctant to use blunt suture needles and safety scalpels. The third most commonly cited portion of the Bloodborne Pathogen standard involves the failure to use engineering controls “to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.”

In 2014, Missouri began randomly selecting hospitals for inspection in a local emphasis program on bloodborne pathogens. The Kansas City region is seeking to increase health inspections, those that address hazards that cause illness, says Dee Cantu, assistant regional administrator for enforcement programs in OSHA’s Region 7.

“Our hope and our goal is that all employers who are covered by the [local emphasis program] will take the necessary steps to get out ahead of OSHA and protect their employees,” she says.

Michele Marill, For more on this story see the May 2014 issue of Hospital Employee Health