OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard applies to all ambulance service and first responder service providers. This is the law that mandates the Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan for each service. The subsequent Needlestick Prevention Act mandates that if there is a safety device available, it must be used unless there is a patient safety issue that overrides the employee safety issue. Safety controls or “devices” include sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems.
The requirement to implement safer medical devices is not new. You must evaluate and implement appropriate engineering controls during the mandated annual review of your services Bloodborne Exposure Control Plan. During your annual review of devices, you must inquire about new or prospective safer options and document this fact in your written Exposure Control Plan. When evaluation is complete, devices should be implemented promptly after appropriate education and training on the use of any new device.
Safety equipment must be available at all times. If for some reason an engineering control is not available (due to supply shortages, back orders, shipping delays, etc.), this must be documented in your Exposure Control Plan. You would then be responsible to implement the chosen control(s) as soon as it becomes available and adjust your exposure control plan to illustrate such. In the meantime, work practice controls must be used and, if occupational exposure still remains, personal protective equipment must also be used.
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There are several resources available for employers and employees with regard to occupational exposures to blood and OPIM. Please see the following websites: