Senate Employment, Safety and Training Subcommittee Chairman, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., has teamed up with Republican and Democrat Senate and House colleagues on a bill that would help nurses and other healthcare workers stay healthy.
Enzi, along with Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., James Jeffords, R-Vt., Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Reps. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., and Major Owens, D-N.Y., have introduced the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in both Houses.
The legislation would encourage hospitals and other healthcare facilities to use the best technologies to prevent healthcare professionals who work with needles from being exposed to bloodborne pathogens, such as HIV and Hepatitis B.
"I am proud to be a part of legislation which will save lives and help stop the spread of bloodborne disease," said Enzi. "This bill is an important step for safety in the workplace. I hope it will bring some peace of mind to the more than 8 million workers who perform the vitally important service of providing health care in this country."
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as 800,000 healthcare workers accidentally are stuck with needles each year.
The needlestick bill would provide instruction to OSHA to amend its bloodborne pathogen standard to make certain employers evaluate their workplaces and use medical devices, such as needleless systems and retractable needles where appropriate.
The bill would change OSHA''s standard from an agency directive to a law, giving it more weight.
"The best way to ensure worker safety is to combine simple and clear regulations with incentives for employers, employee involvement and emphasis by OSHA on training and education. I am hopeful that this and other similar initiatives I''ve worked on can become a model for reforming OSHA''s current reactive enforcement approach to one that is more geared toward preventing workplace accidents," said Enzi.
Enzi said he believes the broad support the bill has may make it possible to become law this year, even during the final hours of the legislative session.
Eighteen states currently have laws in place to protect health care workers from needlestick injuries.
by Virginia Sutcliffe