President Clinton signed legislation yesterday that will protect health care workers from deadly needlestick injuries.
The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was introduced by Sens. James Jeffords, R-Vt., Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., Harry Reid, D-Nev., and in the House by Reps. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., and Major Ownes, D-N.Y.
This legislation, which drew strong bipartisan support, provides for needlestick protection under OSHA.
The bill requires the use of safer needle devices in health facilities by strengthening OSHA''s standards on bloodborne pathogens.
These devices automatically retract, cover or blunt needles immediately after they are used.
The bill also requires that workers who provide direct patient care have a role in determining which safer needles to use in their workplaces, and mandates consistent documentation of all needlestick injuries.
Leaders of the American Nurses Association (ANA) praised the Clinton Administration for their support of the legislation.
"Nurses across the nation are rejoicing today," said ANA President Mary Foley, RN. "For so long we have advocated for this legislation, knowing the impact it would have on nurses across the country. This legislation will save countless lives."
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) helped to lead the fight for safer needles by winning legislation in 15 states, building enough momentum to pass the federal bill that was signed by the President yesterday.
"I am so happy and relieved, because this bill will help prevent other health care workers from suffering like I am," said Ellen Dayton, a former registered nurse and member of SEIU Local 790 in San Francisco who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from an accidental needlestick.
Approximately 800,000 needlestick injuries occur in the United States annually.
by Virginia Sutcliffe