Glass Capillary Tubes Dangerous

It's little surprise that 18- to 34-year-olds are at the heart of a nationwide increase in illegal drug use, and the manufacturing industry traditionally draws heavily from this pool of job seekers.

OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have produced a joint advisory notice on the use of glass capillary tubes.

Designed to inform readers of the potential hazards associated with these blood collection devices, the organizations recommend safer alternatives to glass capillary tubes. According to the advisory, breakage of glass capillary tubes during use may result in worker exposure to contaminated blood.

Such cases can increase the risk of acquiring a bloodborne pathogen infection, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Studies of health care workers indicated that hundreds of these exposures occur, sometimes requiring expensive and lengthy treatment as well as tremendous mental anguish for injured workers.

"There are an estimated 2,800 injuries from glass capillary tube breakage every year," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "OSHA wants to be sure that employees in labs and health care facilities receive the best possible protection against dangerous, potentially fatal exposures."

To reduce the risk, OSHA recommends using:

  • Capillary tubes that are not made of glass;
  • Glass capillary tubes wrapped in puncture-resistant film;
  • Products that use a method of sealing that does not require pushing one end of the tube into putty to form a plug; and
  • Products that allow the blood hematocrit to be measured without centrifugation.

Employers using capillary tubes may be cited under OSHA's bloodborne pathogen's standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) under certain circumstances, such as improper housekeeping (picking up broken, contaminated capillary tubes with the hands) [paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(D)]; improper handling of regulated waste (improperly disposing of contaminated capillary tubes) [paragraph (d)(4)(iii)], or lack of personal protective equipment (i.e., not using gloves when handling contaminated capillary tubes) [(d)(3)(ix)]; or failure to provide post-exposure evaluation and follow-up of exposure incidents [paragraph (f)(3)]. Additionally, occupational illnesses and injuries sustained from capillary tubes may be recordable under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements (see 29 CFR Part 1904: Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses).

For more information or comments, contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190 or the Office of Occupational Health Nursing at (202) 693-2120.

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