A coalition of unions representing health care workers has published resource documents to help workers and other workplace parties gain adequate protection from the health risks presented by all medical sharps.
Ontario Regulation 474/07—Needle Safety was enacted in August, 2007 mandating the use of safety-engineered needles and needleless systems in place of hollow-bore needles in hospitals by September 1, 2008. As of July 1, 2010, their use is required in all workplaces providing health-related services.
The coalition, including 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, recognizes the now fully implemented Needle Safety Regulation "has increased the protection of workers who are at risk of injuries from sharp medical devices." They believe, however, the legislation "should be expanded further to cover all medical sharps (not just hollow-bore needle replacement) in all workplaces where workers may encounter them." They also point out employers may not fully understand their legal duties to protect workers from all medical sharps. "We believe this regulation may be misinterpreted by employers, who may argue that they need only to protect their employees from hollow-bore needles, the only device explicitly named in the regulation. The implementation of Regulation 474/07 in no way diminishes the responsibility of all health care employers to protect all workers from all sharps injuries. Injuries/hazards caused by devices not explicitly described in Regulation 474/07 can be addressed using the Occupational Health & Safety Act Section 25(2)(h)."
The resources published by the coalition share a fuller discussion about their concerns with the current legislation as well as blueprints and strategies to achieve more effective workplace policies and actions to prevent medical sharp injuries and related health concerns. For instance, the Sharps/Needle Safety Position publication outlines the elements of a complete medical sharps safety program including the mandatory adoption of safety-engineered medical devices and worker training. A Step by Step Process for Sharps/Needle Safety Initiative outlines the role for joint health and safety committees or health and safety representatives in identifying all hazards and recommending preventive actions to the employer.
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre has published a fact sheet highlighting the issue of needlestick injuries including potential health impacts and prevention strategies.
Want to read the Health Care Union Coalition resources?
Want to read the Needle Safety Regulation?
Want to read the WHSC Needlestick hazard bulletin?
Want to know about WHSC training for health care workers—call 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative or call a WHSC office near you.