November 5, 1999
The directive guides OSHA's compliance officers in enforcing the standard that covers occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens and ensures consistent inspection procedures are followed. It updates an earlier directive issued in 1992 and reflects the availability of improved devices, better treatment following exposure and OSHA policy interpretations.
"We must do everything we can to protect workers who may be at risk of exposure to bloodborne diseases," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "This directive doesn't place new requirements on employers, but it does recognize and emphasize the advances made in medical technology. And it reminds employers that they must use readily available technology in their safety and health programs."
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. OSHA 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.
"We received nearly 400 comments from health care facilities, workers and others," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "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 worksites, 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.
OSHA issued a final regulation on occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens in 1991 to protect nearly six million workers in health care and related occupations at risk of exposure to bloodborne diseases. Jeffress said the agency will review the standard to determine whether its revision is warranted.
The directive can be accessed from the OSHA home page at (http://www.osha.gov) under the "Directives" link. Copies can also be obtained from the agency's Publications Office by calling (202) 693-1888. (NOTE: A fact sheet providing highlights of the revised directive follows this release).
The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.
During the past seven years, significant medical advances have occurred that help control bloodborne pathogens. In addition, OSHA has clarified the standard through written interpretations. The emerging technology, coupled with new information on the control of bloodborne pathogens, necessitated a revision in the compliance directive. Following is a summary of some of the key revisions.
Annual Review of Exposure Control Plan -- employers must ensure that their plans reflect consideration and use of commercially available safer medical devices.
Engineering Controls and Work Practices -- emphasizes the use of effective engineering controls, to include safer medical devices, work practices, administrative controls and personal protective equipment.
Emphasizes that employers should rely on relevant evidence in addition to FDA approval to ensure effectiveness of devices designed to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
Multi-Employer Worksites -- focuses on employment agencies, personnel services, home health services, independent contractors, and physicians in independent practice.
Adds most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control on vaccinations against the Hepatitis B virus. Incorporates CDC's guidelines on post exposure evaluation and follow-up for HIV and the Hepatitis C virus.
Requires effective training and education for employees whenever safer devices are implemented. Stresses "interactive" training sessions rather than just the use of films or videos that do not provide the opportunity for discussion with a qualified trainer.
Replaces and updates appendices. Includes the following: examples of committees in health care facilities; sample engineering control evaluation forms; an Internet resource list; a "fill-in-the-blanks" sample exposure control plan; and CDC guidelines pertaining to HIV exposure, control and prevention of hepatitis C, and hepatitis B vaccinations.