On April 1, 2009 the mandatory use of safety-engineered needles was extended to long-term home care facilities, designated psychiatric facilities, laboratories and specimen collection centres.
Ontario Regulation 474/07 - Needle Safety was enacted in August of 2007 mandating the use of safety-engineered needles in hospitals by September 1, 2008. The government then set various timetables for mandating their use in other health care facilities. According to the Ministry of Labour (MOL), coverage for ambulance attendants and those employed in doctor's offices and home facilities is not expected until 2010.
Unions representing health care workers in Ontario continue to question why the implementation of the Needle Safety Regulation is being staggered leaving many health care workers at risk.
Every year in Ontario health care workers suffer an estimated 33,000 injuries from needles and other medical sharps. Each has the potential for serious or fatal infections, including blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDs). Workers who suffer these injuries, along with family and friends, face stressful waits before finding out if they have contracted a virus from their injury.
A coalition of health care unions consisting of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, also have concerns with the fact this law focuses only on hollow-bore needles and continue to press for wider protection through their safer needles campaign. They explain at www.saferneedles.ca all conventional medical sharps, not just hollow-bore needles have safety-engineered equivalents available.
This coalition has produced a resource document to help joint health and safety committees (JHSC) and health and safety representatives convince employers to implement actions needed to comply with the Needle Safety Regulation.
Equally important, this document outlines how Injuries/hazards caused by devices not explicitly described in Regulation 474/07 or at a facility not covered by the Regulation 474/07 fall under the protection of Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This section calls on employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
According to Jill McIllwraith, Chair, OPSEU s Health Care Divisional Council, It is our understanding that if a MOL inspector inspects a health care workplace and finds that medical sharps are a hazard to worker safety, the inspector will write orders requesting the employer to address the hazard, even if the medical sharp is something other than a hollow-bore needle and even in workplaces not covered by the regulation.
Want to read the Needle Safety Regulation?
Want to read the resource document published by the Safer Needles coalition?
Want to know more about the safer needles campaign?
Want to read the WHSC Needle Stick hazard bulletin?