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Get On The Stick Selling Safe Sharps
By Dr. Sheila Dunn

Selling safe sharps has just become the hottest distributor opportunity since latex gloves. Manufacturer reps from safe sharps companies think they've died and gone to heaven-they don't even need to get out of bed in the morning and their sales will skyrocket!

Why all the hoopla? Because of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, signed into law in late 2000 by President Clinton, requiring health care facilities to review and make available safety needle devices.

The national law (Public Law No: 106-430) is designed to protect health care workers from accidental needlesticks. It amends and strengthens OSHA's current Bloodborne Pathogens standard, requiring all health care facilities to:

  • Identify and make available sharps with engineered protection features and needleless systems
  • Involve health care workers in the selection of such safety needle devices
  • Maintain a sharps injury log

The market potential is enormous for both manufacturers and distributors. Currently, less than 20% of sharps in use are classified as "safety" sharps. First-generation safety devices that sheathe needles sell for one to three times the price of a conventional product. Second-generation products, the so-called retractable products, sell for considerably more-and that's if you can even get them!

This is indeed an opportunity worth pursuing.

Get On the Stick!
If you have not yet jumped on this opportunity, you're nuts! Before now, when you've mentioned safety needles to accounts, you've likely heard:

"You want me to buy what? That's three times what we pay now!"

"You must be crazy! Our doctors will never go for that!"

"Show me where the law says I have to do this!"

Regardless of the protests you hear, the bottom line is that every medical practice in America must evaluate all available sharps and select the safest device based on their evaluation. OSHA will impose heavy fines on practices that use sharps products without safety features and are not evaluating alternative safety devices.

So, get excited about this opportunity, spread the word, and share manufacturers' resources (sample kits, documentation, videos, etc.) with your customers. Invite your local safe sharps manufacturer rep out to dinner and learn all you can about these products.

Finally, as a value-added service, train customers on how to use safety devices, help them evaluate products, and assist them in managing the conversion. Five years from now, you'll be really glad you did. And, believe it or not, those same customers who are concerned about price increases now will thank you for making their conversion painless.

Proof Sources & Other Cool Stuff To Give Customers

  • For "Doubting Thomas's," the actual law is available at http://thomas.loc.gov. Search using bill number HR 5178.ENR.
  • Sample Sharps Evaluation Guides and Forms are available for free from www.osha-compliance.com.
  • A sample special-edition OSHA Watch newsletter on the safe sharps regulation can be sent to interested customers. Call Quality America at 828-645-3661.
    • The following are some of the rationale for the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, as cited in the law itself:
    • Compliance with the 1991 OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard has significantly reduced the risk that workers will contract a bloodborne disease in the course of their work.
    • Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 380,000 percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps occur annually among health care workers in United States hospitals. Estimates for all health care settings are as high as 600,000 to 800,000.
    • Since publication of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard in 1991, the number and assortment of effective engineering controls available to employers has increased substantially.
    • Studies have demonstrated that the use of safer medical devices, such as needleless systems and sharps with engineered sharps injury protections, can be extremely effective in reducing injuries, provided they are part of an overall bloodborne pathogen risk-reduction program.
    • The CDC estimates that 62% to 88% of sharps injuries can potentially be prevented by the use of safer medical devices.
    • Training and education in the use of safer medical devices and safer work practices are significant elements in the prevention of percutaneous exposure incidents. Staff involvement in the device selection and evaluation process is also important

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