NEEDLE STICKS: Cal OSHA Says Safety Needles Could Save State $106 Million
A new California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board study found that newly required safety needles "will cost more but that the cost will be offset by the savings from the reduced need for testing and treatment of needle injuries," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Cal OSHA report estimated that "each needle stick costs employers between $2,234 and $3,832, while the median increase in the cost of a safer needle device is 24 cents." The study concluded that safer needles could reap net savings of $106 million per year. The Chronicle reports that the "projected savings from the use of safety needles are considered 'conservative' ... because they do not account for the full cost of needle stick injuries -- ranging from the additional costs of emergency room visits, lost work time, counseling, lost productivity, managerial and personnel expenses and liability costs." Under legislation (AB 1208) sponsored by state Assemblywoman Carol Migden (D-San Francisco) and passed this summer, state medical facilities must switch "from conventional needles to syringes with safety features like sliding sheathes or self-blunting needles" by August of this year.
The seven-member standards board yesterday also unanimously adopted "emergency regulations" requiring health care facilities in the state "to collect needle injury information, including the type and brand of needle involved," beginning next month. The Chronicle reports that the "state's landmark regulations could also result in a small increase in the number of health care personnel in the state 'as it becomes known that the California health care industry provides better worker protection than the rest of the nation.'" Migden spokesperson Allan LoFaso said the regulations "will save a lot of lives in the workplace," adding that Migden "hopes that other states and the federal government will now follow suit and protect workers throughout the country." Roger Richter of the California Healthcare Association "told the board that his group strongly supported the new regulations even though they 'would add considerable costs.'" Praising the new regulations in comments before the board yesterday, the California Nurses Association's Shannon Sutherland said, "This is a love-fest" (Carlsen, 12/18). Click needle sticks for previous coverage of this issue.