10th Anniversary of the Needlestick Safety Act

November 2010

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, which was passed in response to the problem of healthcare workers being exposed to bloodborne pathogens (HIV, hepatitis, etc.) via sharps injuries. The Act directed OSHA to modify its existing bloodborne pathogen standard to require that employers update their exposure control plans to reflect advances in technology (e.g., needleless systems and sharps with injury protection); maintain sharps injury logs; and solicit input from non-managerial employees potentially exposed to contaminated sharps. (View the current bloodborne pathogen standard.)

In Infection Control Today, Kelly M. Pyrek reports on progress since the act's passage -- and how far we still have to go on preventing sharps-related injuries:

One might expect that the NSPA significantly contributed to the reduction of sharps-related injuries in the healthcare setting, and it has, at least judging by a cursory look at data from the EPINet Sharps Injury and Blood and Body Fluid Exposure Surveillance Network. In 2001, a total of 1,929 percutaneous injuries (PIs) were reported by network facilities; in 2007, the year for which the most current data is available, in 2007, a total of 951 PIs were reported. While any reduction in PIs is considered to be a victory, healthcare professionals are urged not to become complacent about the approximately 1,000 sharps-related injuries that occur every day and the numerous ones that are not reported. In a 2008 study of 700 nurses' views on workplace safety conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA), nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents say needlestick injuries and bloodborne infections remain major concerns, and 55 percent believe their workplace safety climate negatively impacts their own personal safety.