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The Distributor's Role In Driving Safety Devices…Show You Care!
By Wayne Care

When the nurse or medical practitioner is using old-style sharps devices, they may think they are getting away with something, but they are breaking the law and leaving the practice open to huge fines. OSHA's Safety Needle law is in effect and your customers have to follow it.

In practices that are OSHA compliant, employees who do not use safe sharps receive written warnings. The office policy should state, in writing, that these employees will be fired it they do not comply with safety rules. The same applies to those who have willfully avoided wearing gloves during phlebotomy. It's a fact that practices that care about employee safety have lower injury rates and better employee morale.

In many instances, you as medical supply distributor are your customers' liaison to the government, whether you wish to be or not. They may hate the regulations, but they have to obey them. When you let them off the hook, you do them a disservice (like letting your kids roll around in the back seat without seat belts).

As painful as educating your customers sometimes is, doing so shows that you care. Here are some of the questions Quality America has answered on this issue that may help.

Q: My customer has never had a needlestick. Do they need to buy safety needles?

A: Yes, your customer still needs to buy safety needles, regardless of whether they have experienced a needlestick in the past. OSHA's law is intended to prevent future needlesticks, not to report on past mistakes.

Q: My customers say they have not heard of this law and think I am making it up to increase my sales.

A: If your customer hasn't heard of the amended Bloodborne Pathogens standard that requires safe sharps, they've been under a rock. Every major newspaper and news organization on television has reported on it. Provide written materials offered by your company or suppliers, or direct them to the OSHA web site at www.osha.gov. Even better, print off the regulation and provide it to them.

Q: My customers saw the prices for the new safety syringes and suddenly they are reviewing all of my prices.

A: Safer sharps products are more expensive, but as the field of competitive products grows, the price, like for most commodity items, will drop. Until then, review the options that your company sells and offer your customer alternatives. Advise them of the other value-added services that your company provides to them. And remind them of the long-term savings they will experience using safe sharps, versus the expense of dealing with a needlestick and its aftermath.

Q: If OSHA inspects an office will they give a warning over deficiencies?

A: OSHA does not issue warnings. If they cite deficiencies, they are always going to impose a monetary fine.

Q: My customer looked at safety needles and found they were too expensive. Can they use that decision not to change in their evaluation protocol?

A: No, OSHA will not accept any decision that is based on monetary considerations. Preventing needlesticks and other sharps injuries is OSHA's top priority.

Remember, selling is not just holding out a pretty widget or quoting a price, it is education-both your own and your customers. Don't duck their questions; educate your customers. Remind them that you care!

Additional Information
Several States Extend Needlestick Compliance Deadline
Changes in OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen standard requiring safe sharps became effective April 18, 2001, but OSHA gave a 90-day outreach and education extension before enforcing the new rules as of July 17, 2001.

To further confuse the issue, medical facilities in states with OSHA-approved state plans had until October 18, 2001 to comply. OSHA encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health plans and OSHA approves and monitors the plans. Virtually every state with its own OSHA plan is identical to the federal OSHA statutes. There are currently 24 states operating state plans. These states had until October 18, 2001 to fully implement safety sharps:

Arkansas - Arizona - California - Connecticut* - Hawaii - Indiana - Iowa - Kentucky - Maryland - Michigan - Minnesota - Nevada - New Jersey* - New Mexico - New York* - North Carolina - Oregon - South Carolina - Tennessee - Utah - Vermont - Virginia - Washington - Wyoming

*State plan applies to public employees only.


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