Michigan Makes a Point: Major Needlestick Rule Takes Effect

Major changes in the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act bloodborne infectious disease standard went into effect this week.

Major changes in the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act (MIOSHA) bloodborne infectious disease standard are now effective. The changes are intended to reduce the number of needlestick injuries suffered by healthcare workers.

Each year one in seven medical professionals experiences a needlestick injury while caring for sick or injured patients. Safer and newer equipment that is readily available could prevent many of these injuries.

"Healthcare professionals dedicate their careers to preserving lives, and yet they face a multitude of hazards on the job each day," said Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) Director Kathy Wilbur. The CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation administers MIOSHA.

"Our state''s health care providers deserve protection against deadly and debilitating bloodborne diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis B," she added.

The revisions clarify the need for employers to evaluate and select safer needle devices as they become available and to involve employees in identifying and choosing the devices. The updated standard also requires employers to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps.

Given the dramatic number of needlestick injuries each year to healthcare professionals, estimated by federal OSHA at 600,000 to 800,000 annually, Congress unanimously passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act on Nov. 6, 2000. The Act mandated revisions of federal OSHA''s bloodborne pathogens standard and directed the agency to make these changes within six months.

On Jan. 23, 2001, the Michigan Occupational Health Standards Commission voted to adopt the federal amendments by reference. These amendments to the MIOSHA bloodborne infectious diseases standard were published in the Michigan Register on April 15, 2001, and will be enforced effective Oct. 18, 2001.

In accordance with its emphasis to "educate before we regulate," the CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation conducted a 90-day outreach and education effort before enforcing the new provisions.

The Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division conducted workshops throughout the state, in cooperation with healthcare associations, to assist employers with the revised standard. The three-hour workshops included standard requirements and revisions, elements of an exposure control plan, engineering controls, selection criteria, and the new sharps injury log.

The CET Division continues to sponsor bloodborne seminars, and is guiding and supporting employers'' healthcare education and training needs. Outreach kits are available through CET containing various written materials to assist employers with compliance activities. For seminar dates and additional information call 517-322-1809.

The MIOSHA Initiatives Page at www.cis.state.mi.us/bsr has detailed information on the needlestick revisions. This page is dedicated to keeping employers and employees aware of MIOSHA activities related to new or significantly revised MIOSHA standards, development of industry or hazard specific guidelines, or partnerships. Articles in past issues of the MIOSHA News: "Needlestick Revisions" (Summer 2001), "Preventing Needlestick Injuries" (Spring 2000), and "Bloodborne Infectious Diseases: Compliance Directive Update" (Fall 2000) also are available on the site.

by Sandy Smith

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