Tools Of The Trade For Selling Safety Needles

Edition: April 2000 - Vol 8 Number 04
Article#: 276
Author: Dr. Sheila Dunn

Are you seeing a lot of safety needle activity in your territory? Told you so! In Part I of this article, ‘Take The High Road For Needle Safety Sales’ (March 2000, Repertoire) we described OSHA’s November 5, 1999 Directive mandating safety product evaluations for all medical facilities (hospitals, long term care and all ambulatory medical sites).

Like any other new healthcare legislation, OSHA’s Directive has resulted in widespread confusion for primary care customers. Yes folks, it’s mass chaos...people running in the streets...OK, well maybe not, but there’s a lot of uncertainty and activity due to OSHA’s most recent directive.

Your accounts are still confused, right? And they’re looking to you for easy answers. The bottom line is this: Medical practices that have not evaluated sharps, such as needles, IV connectors, and phlebotomy equipment will be cited and penalized by OSHA.

For medical offices, this means evaluating sharps at least once per year and more frequently if improved safety versions become available. Table 1 explains exactly how to perform an evaluation on safety devices. Depending on the re-sults of the safety product evaluation, medical practices can either switch or keep using existing products. If an account is still using devices without built-in safety features, a written eval-uation must be in place to prove to the OSHA inspector that safety alternatives failed the evaluation. Rest assured that ‘price’ is not a criteria on the evaluation!

This is a great opportunity for you to guide your accounts to quick and easy compliance! How? By using the tools provided in the toolkit on pages 33 and 34. Give these ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ Safety Needle Evaluation Templates to your customers and you’ll see how relief is really spelled! The templates can also be found on Quality America’s online resource center at:

These handy tools are guaranteed to remove any confusion that your accounts have about exactly what they must do to comply with this regulation. You will help them avoid stiff OSHA fines -- and at the same time, sell safety devices!

If you’re a real masochist, you can download the entire 78-page Directive from OSHA’s home page at: Copies are also available from OSHA’s Publications Office: 202-693-1888.

Table 1. Sharps Evaluation Procedure

This ‘Sharps Evaluation’ procedure helps determine if a particular ‘safe’ sharp will minimize occupational exposure to needlesticks and, therefore, should be implemented in your facility. Each workplace is different in terms of the types of procedures performed, the types of patients seen, and the habits and preferences of employees. Therefore, this Sharps Evaluation process enables you to evaluate the effectiveness of existing sharp devices and to review the feasibility of instituting more advanced, possibly safer, sharps devices.

For OSHA Safety Officers

  1. Determine which products are to be evaluated and provide at least four or more test samples for each individual evaluating the product. (Each evaluator should have enough samples to disassemble and examine the design thoroughly.) Employees chosen for the Sharps Evaluation Procedure should currently use a similar category of product in your workplace.

  2. Provide visual instructions and demonstrate the proper use of each device. Be sure testers can evaluate products in a simulated patient environment; provide training dummies, if needed (e.g., injection pads).

  3. Review the instructions and rating system with each evaluator.

  4. Require each evaluator to complete an Evaluation Form.

  5. Review responses on Evaluation Forms; make conclusions, recommendations.

For Evaluators

  1. Re-enact all steps of intended or possible procedures performed with the device.

  2. Attempt to misuse the device and circumvent or disable the safety feature.

  3. Answer each question on the Evaluation Form, including any short answer sections at the end. If you do not understand a question, please write comments directly on the sheets.

About the Author: Dr. Sheila Dunn heads Quality America¨, Inc., an Asheville, NC-based company that publishes OSHA Safety Manuals, an OSHA Newsletter and an entertaining OSHA retraining video. All are available through distributors. For information about Quality America’s products and services, call 828-645-3661 or visit their Online Resource Center at: