Momentum is building in Congress for bipartisan legislation to protect health care workers from deadly needlestick injuries that can spread HIV and Hepatitis C.
There are currently 70 House sponsors for the Ballenger-Owens bill (H.R. 5178), which will be voted on today.
The sponsors include 45 Republicans, 33 Democrats and one Independent.
"The bipartisan support for this bill is very encouraging," said Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents more than 710,000 health care workers. "Passage of this bill would be an important achievement that would put the lives of health care workers above partisan politics."
The bill would strengthen OSHA''s standard on bloodborne pathogens to require the use of newer, safer devices in health facilities.
It would also require the involvement of workers who provide direct patient care in determining which safer needles and sharps to use in their workplaces, and more consistent documentation of all needlestick injuries.
An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 needlestick injuries occur each year -- 2,000 every day, according to SEIU.
by Virginia Sutcliffe