Ask the expert: Beware of Packages Containing Non-Safety Needles

by Tyler Trimbath

Q: What are the rules/guidelines when someone else is responsible for your phlebotomy/injection supplies? We are a physicians office that does research, and the drug companies provide us with all supplies needed (syringes, phlebotomy needles, etc.). We do not purchase our own supplies. Is it still our responsibility to evaluate and provide safety devices or even newer more effective safety devices?

A: The short and, in your case, not so sweet answer is: You, the employer, are on the hook for possible OSHA violation and fines.

Now for the long version. Under the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure compliance with those sections related to the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act.

Claiming that you are exempt from following the standard because pharmaceutical companies supply you with non-safety or inadequate devices just won’t fly. The pharmaceutical company does not have a direct relationship to your employees. You have the direct relationship, and you are responsible for the safety of your employees.

You might want to make sure that your contract with the pharmaceutical company stipulates that all devices supplied are in accordance with OSHA standards.

Or, have the pharmaceutical company agree to pick up any OSHA fines and post-exposure follow-up and management costs as a result of your employees working on their projects.

I’m being facetious here, but if you can imagine a pharmaceutical company’s reluctance to do that, then you can apply it to your reluctance to provide your employees with unsafe devices, no matter who supplies them.

For an analogous interpretation, see “Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act and the requirement to include safety-engineered sharps devices in pre-packaged surgical kits or trays,” which states:

“In healthcare settings this requirement is easily interpreted to mean that employers must implement the use of ’safety-engineered devices’ or sharps with engineered sharps injury protection (SESIPs) when performing medical procedures with sharps, regardless how they are packaged or supplied.”

Have you encountered this in your practice, not only with pharmaceutical companies, but with laboratories supplying you with non-compliant devices? And how did you handle it?

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