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Protecting Our Health Care Workers

By Catheryn Peplinski, MBA, RT, ARDMS July 2013

Much has changed since the passing of the federal Needlestick Safety and Protection Act in 2000. A health care topic that we will always need to revisit is the need for Needlestick safety and prevention. With our continuing introduction of new health care providers, the continued education process needs to be updated and stressed upon.

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, including its 2001 revisions, applies to all employers who have employees with reasonably anticipated occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Employers must implement the applicable requirements set forth in the standard. Some of the provisions in the standard apply only to healthcare activities, but some of the provisions, particularly the requirements to update the Exposure Control Plan and to keep a sharps injury log, will apply to non-healthcare as well as healthcare activities.

Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from accidental sharps injuries in healthcare and other occupational settings continues to be a serious problem. If congress, with the help of health care lobbyist’s, felt that a modification to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was appropriate (29 CFR 1910.1030) to set forth in greater detail OSHA's requirement for employers to identify, evaluate, and implement safer medical devices, that means that we as heath care providers need to take the issue just as serious. The Act also mandated additional requirements for maintaining a sharps injury log and for the involvement of non-managerial healthcare workers in evaluating and choosing devices.

As an employer, we are required to maintain a log of occupational injuries and illnesses under 29 CFR 1904, we must also establish and maintain a sharps injury log for recording percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps. The Sharps Log must contain, at a minimum, information about the injury, the type and brand of device involved in the injury (if known), the department or work area where the exposure occurred, and an explanation of how the incident occurred. The log must be recorded and maintained in such a manner so as to protect the confidentiality of the injured employee (e.g., removal of personal identifiers). Making sure that we educate all personal to the regulations and protocols of the facility should be mandatory and the lack of educating is not an excuse for noncompliance.

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard applies to all employers with employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), regardless of how many workers are employed. However, workplaces with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping requirements and are also exempt from recording and maintaining a Sharps Injury Log. (See 29 CFR 1904 for applicability of recordkeeping requirements). All other applicable provisions of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard still apply.

The standards that are set forth by the Needlestick Safety and Protection Act requires the annual consideration and implementation of appropriate engineering controls and solicitation of non-managerial healthcare workers in evaluating and choosing devices.

There are many resources available for employers and employees with regard to occupational exposure to blood pathogens and potentially infectious materials. First, of course, is the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). You may access this information, as well as information from OSHA's Consultation and State Plan State Offices via OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have several documents related to the prevention of occupational exposure to blood and OPIM.

The areas that need special attention to the improvement of safety techniques is: improved sharp safety in surgical settings, understand and reduce exposure risks in non-hospital settings (which include physicians’ offices, clinics, home healthcare, and an array of other settings), involve frontline workers in the selection of safety devices, address gaps in available safety devices, and encourage innovative designs and technology, and enhance worker education and training.

Needlestick injuries are preventable and should not be tolerated in any health care setting. We, as health care providers and health care organizations, are charged with ensuring safety and preventing harm to patients and employees. Employees need to hold the organization for which they work, accountable for following the law and refuse any less. In return, the organization needs to hold its employees to the same high standards of practice in order to maintain a safe environment.


Pedagogy's "Bloodborne Pathogens" class is focused on staff safety and protecting health care workers. OSHA the Occupation Safety and Health Administration is a government agency that sets strict guidelines for the management of toxic and hazardous materials. Any organization or employee that has a potential for exposure to blood or other potentially infections materials are required to follow OSHA guidelines to minimize transmission of infection due to exposure to a bloodborne pathogen.

This online education course will review the definitions of bloodborne pathogens, transmission, bloodborne illnesses, and the effective means of prevention of transmission of diseases that may be caused by bloodborne pathogens. Employers must be familiar with the requirements of OSHA in providing and implementing an Exposure Control Plan and setting infection control practices to prevent and reduce the spread of infection in health care settings.

To learn more about the classes that Pedagogy offers, Click Here 

Pedagogy Blog by Catheryn Peplinski, MBA, RT (R) (M), RDMS, is our Director of Operations and author of Pedagogy online continuing education courses.

Catheryn Peplinski, MBA, RT (R) (M), RDMS, is Director of Operations at Pedagogy Inc. in Troup, Texas. She has earned her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from University of Phoenix, and has a degree in Radiology from Ferris State University. Catheryn is licensed in multiple modalities of Radiology, specializing in High-Risk Obstetrics and genetic testing with over 28 years of experience in diagnostic medicine, education, and management.

Her background includes management and development of clinical practices, education, health care provider in multiple diagnostic procedures, laboratory procedures, surgical assisting, protocol development, accreditation processes, operations, author, and editing/publishing with Pedagogy Inc. She has taught medical students the skills of ultrasound, as well as to nursing staff and radiology and ultrasound students. Catheryn has successfully produced educational material for continuing education and student development. Catheryn has a deep passion to help others with strong beliefs in service oriented philosophies to give to those less fortunate.

She has been blessed with the opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip to Guatemala with her children to gain the appreciation of field medicine and sharing of their talents. She has written multiple news articles and blogs for Pedagogy as well as an infusion based class for Radiology Nursing Professionals.

Visit us at: http://www.pedagogyeducation.com
Posted: 8/1/2013 7:00:00 AM
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