OSHA: Removing Needles from Blood Tube Holders is Prohibited

OSHA is clarifying its policy on the prohibition of removing contaminated needles from blood tube holders in order to reduce the dangers of needlesticks for healthcare workers and others who handle medical sharps.

"Removing contaminated needles and reusing blood tube holders can expose workers to multiple hazards," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We want to make it very clear that this practice is prohibited in order to protect workers from being exposed to contaminated needles."

OSHA explains in a letter of interpretation that the bloodborne pathogens standard requires blood tube holders with attached needles be immediately discarded into a sharps container after the device's safety feature is activated.

In the revised Bloodborne Pathogens compliance directive, the agency outlines its contaminated needle policy and explains that removing a needle from a used blood-drawing/phlebotomy device is rarely, if ever, required by a medical procedure. Because these devices involve the use of a double-ended needle, removing the needle exposes employees to additional risk, as does the increased manipulation of a contaminated device.

"The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) applauds this effort to protect the nation's health care workers from needlestick injuries," said Kathleen Rest, acting director of NIOSH. "Reducing these workers' risk of needlesticks decreases their risk of infection from hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne pathogens."

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard also prohibits contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps from being bent, recapped or removed, unless the employer demonstrates that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure.

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