NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) announces a targeting initiative to reduce sharps injuries in the healthcare industry. Nationwide the CDC estimates that each year 385,000 needle sticks and other sharps-related injuries are sustained by hospital-based healthcare personnel, an average of 1,000 sharps injuries per day. In 2005, Tennessee healthcare workers sustained approximately 3,000 sharps injuries in hospitals and ambulatory surgical treatment centers.
Phase one of TOSHA’s targeting initiative began last year when staff conducted more than 40 seminars and presentations to prepare healthcare facilities on working safely with bloodborne pathogens. Sharps injury prevention procedures and techniques were strongly emphasized in these presentations. This year TOSHA will conduct targeted statewide inspections in hospitals and ambulatory surgical treatment centers to reduce sharps injuries primarily associated with occupational transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
“These inspections are designed to help employers reduce risks to healthcare workers while maintaining TOSHA compliance and cutting workers’ compensation costs,” explained Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley. “Our philosophy is to use compliance as an opportunity to focus on solutions to safety problems that in the long run will reduce costs and liability to the employer.”
In 2002, the federal government required that all hospitals and ambulatory surgical treatment centers report sharps injuries on their OSHA 300 injury logs. In addition, each facility must maintain a Sharps Injury Log as required by Tennessee’s Sharps Injury Prevention Law. TOSHA is using information from these sources to measure the effect of training and inspections on Tennessee’s healthcare industry.
“During inspections over the past few years, TOSHA has observed in a significant number of medical facilities a failure to comply with sharps injury prevention provisions of the bloodborne pathogen standard,” said John Winkler, Administrator of TOSHA. “Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from needlesticks and other sharps injuries is a serious problem, but it is usually preventable.”
To learn more about the implementation of this program, attend one of TOSHA’s training seminars this spring and summer. For information about registration, call (615) 253-4006 or go to www.tennessee.gov/labor-wfd/tosha_training.pdf.