Sharps Safety Under OSHA’s Needlestick Prevention and Safety Act

Needlestick Prevention

In 2001 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised their Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard with The Needlestick Prevention and Safety Act to detail more specific requirements for employers to address sharps safety and needlestick incidents. The following requirements were officially integrated into the Standard:

  • Revised definition plus specific examples of “engineering controls”
  • Requirement for employers to field input from employees on the identification, evaluation, and selection of engineering and work practice controls
  • Requirement for certain employers to establish and maintain a log of needlestick incidents

The revised Standard holds all employers responsible for evaluating the unique characteristics of their workplace and implementing the following specific measures in an Exposure Control Plan to mitigate needlestick and general BBP exposure incidents:

  • Engineering controls – all control measures, including safer medical devices, provided by the employer that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogen hazards by reducing the risk of sharps penetrating the skin. Examples range from sharps disposal containers and biosafety cabinets to self-sheathing needles, blunt suture needles, plastic/mylar-wrapped glass capillary tubes, etc. Engineering controls must be implemented where their use is feasible.
  • Work practice controls – policies designed to reduce the likelihood of exposure by altering how the task is performed, such as appropriate procedures for handwashing, sharps disposal, laundry handling, and contaminated material cleaning. For example: requiring insulin-using employees to dispose of their syringes in an FDA-compliant sharps container while in the workplace for the protection of all employees, particularly sanitation workers.

Sharps Compliance offers a fill-in-the-blank Exposure Control Plan, as well as all other OSHA-required Safety Plans,  through our ComplianceTrac platform. Additionally, ComplianceTrac offers OSHA required training such as BBP training, HazCom training, and many more interactive, online training modules accessible 24/7/365. Administrative access can be customized to your business’ unique structure and needs.

OSHA defines a contaminated sharp as any item that can penetrate the skin, including but not limited to needles, scalpels, broken glass, glass slides, broken capillary tubes, and exposed ends of dental wires. The Standard prohibits the bending, recapping (except in certain circumstances), removal, shearing, or breaking of contaminated needles. Contaminated sharps must be discarded immediately or as soon as possible in sharps containers that are:

  • Closable (containers are not required to be closed while in use, only between use and upon removal from use)
  • Puncture resistant
  • Leakproof on sides and bottom
  • Biohazard labeled (including symbol), or container may be red/red-orange color-coded

The Standard requires that sharps containers be easily accessible to personnel and located as close as possible to the immediate area of patient care or other regions where sharps may be encountered, such as the laundry room. Sharps containers must be kept upright throughout use, replaced routinely, and never overfilled.

Before removal from use, sharps containers must be immediately closed to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, transport, or shipping. The sharps container must then be carefully placed in a secondary container if leakage is possible. The secondary container must be:

  • Closable
  • Constructed to contain all contents and prevent leakage during handling, storage, transport, or shipping
  • Biohazard labeled (including symbol), or container may be red/red-orange color-coded

Sharps Compliance’s large capacity 30-Gallon TakeAway Recovery System includes six 5-quart sharps containers and is specifically designed to meet the needs of a variety of businesses. Use the 30-gallon container to collect used healthcare products as well as sealed sharps containers. When ready for treatment, the system is shipped back using the prepaid return box.

The Standard’s provisions were established for the protection of waste generators as well as waste handlers downstream, who are also at risk of lacerations, percutaneous injuries, and general exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Sharps Compliance’s Regulatory Compliance Team has innumerable resources to assist your business in keeping OSHA-compliant and safe.

Kathryn Kane-Neilson

Author: Kathryn Kane-Neilson

Kathryn earned her Bachelor of Science with a concentration in cellular pathology from the University of Texas and high-complexity testing certification by the ASCP. Kathryn has been published in the journal Cancer Cytopathology and has seven years’ experience in clinical laboratory as well as experience developing comprehensive training on biohazardous waste management in clinical and research settings.