SAFETY NEEDLES: Cal OSHA Backs Off Tough Regulations
The California Occupational Safety and Health Agency has "backed off its proposal to require health care employers to provide their workers with safety needles," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cal OSHA released a revision of proposed regulations last week granting employers four exceptions in declining to provide safety needles to their workers. The new regulations are drawing criticism from safety advocates who contend the rules are so riddled with loopholes that they are basically ineffective. "They've shredded the earlier tough language. They've created massive escape hatches for employers," said Bill Borwegen, health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union (Carlsen, 7/22). But the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Cal OSHA officials contended the regulations would still require safety needles to be used, unless they qualified for an exception. Besides, Cal OSHA officials noted that the draft regulations are part of a "rule-making process" that is "still open to comments." Cal OSHA head Dr. John Howard said, "We are putting things out to probe the borders. We are trying to find the consensus limits on each side" (7/23).
Exceptions To Every Rule
About a month ago, Cal OSHA called an advisory board together to devise tougher regulations to prevent health care workers from receiving dangerous needle sticks that can result in hepatitis or HIV infection. The board released tough regulations that were hailed as leading the nation in needle safety. But the draft released last week provided four exceptions to those standards: if doctors "believe the safety needles would harm patients," if safety needles "are not available for particular procedures," if the safety devices "are no more effective at preventing injuries than traditional tools" or if "'reasonably specific and reliable' information is not available on the device's efficacy." Many health care providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, contend that the science is not there proving safety needles are better than conventional ones at preventing accidental sticks. Click needle sticks to read past California Healthline coverage of the issue.