OSHA, NIOSH Release Bulletin on Needle Stick Injuries

OSHA and NIOSH announced on April 11 they jointly published a safety and health information bulletin (SHIB) designed to help protect surgical personnel from needle stick injuries while using suture needles.

"Surgical personnel are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from injuries caused by sharp surgical instruments," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "We strongly encourage the use of blunt-tip suture needles when feasible and appropriate to reduce this risk."

"The effectiveness of blunt-tip suture needles for preventing needle stick injuries has been widely reported," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "We are pleased to partner with OSHA in offering guidance to protect the safety and health of medical professionals."

The SHIB describes the hazards of sharp-tip suture needles and presents evidence of the effectiveness of blunt-tip needles in decreasing injuries. It also emphasizes OSHA's requirement to use appropriate, available and effective safer medical devices.

Sharp-tip suture needles are the leading source of penetrating injuries to surgical personnel, causing 51 percent to 71 percent of these incidents. These injuries potentially expose staff and patients to bloodborne pathogens.

The American College of Surgeons issued a statement in 2005 supporting the use of blunt-tip suture needles where clinically appropriate. This statement has been endorsed by the six organizations that, along with the ACS, make up the Council on Surgical and Perioperative Safety.

The SHIB can be accessed at the Web site of OSHA (http://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib032307.html) or NIOSH (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-132).

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