SAFETY NEEDLES: Boxer Slips Provision Into Federal Budget Plan
The newly approved FY 1999 federal budget plan includes a provision sponsored by California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) calling on "federal health care and worker-safety agencies to require safer needles and more accurate reporting at the nation's medical facilities." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the provision represents "the first time that Congress has publicly acknowledged a nationwide health crisis in which hundreds of health care workers contract HIV" and other viruses through needle sticks. The budget provision specifically orders three federal agencies -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- to "make reduction of accidental needle sticks a priority." The CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are directed to begin gathering "the numerous studies that have compared the performance of standard needles with that of safety needles." OSHA is directed to begin requiring "hospitals and other medical facilities [to] record all accidental needle sticks." Separately, the CDC is instructed "to include in its hospital manual a recommendation for the use of needles and syringes with devices that protect against needle injuries."
A First Step
Though the federal legislation is not mandatory, a Boxer spokesperson called it "another step in the right direction to protect the health and safety of medical workers and their families." Dr. June Fisher, a San Francisco-based occupational safety expert, called the federal provision a "small step." She said, "I would have liked to have seen appropriations for training of institutions and health care workers. But we welcome congressional attention." Passage of the federal mandate follows the enactment of a California law last month making the state the first "to require the use of safety needles as protection against needle sticks." John Duncan, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations, said the state has "already done the heavy lifting on a number of these issues." He suggested that the federal government "duplicate what we're doing because a lot of this isn't that complicated" (Holding, 10/23). Click safety needles to read past California Healthline coverage of the California law.