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Ask the Experts Q & A

Q: We heard about an OSHA citation for reusing the plastic barrel that holds phlebotomy tubes. This is confusing since we use a sharps container with a built-in needle remover and so does every other medical practice that we know of. Is reusing the plastic barrel an OSHA violation?

A: According to a high level OSHA spokesperson, it is. The issue is not reusing the plastic barrels, but the removal of the needle from the barrel. Even though special sharps containers exist for this purpose, the bloodborne pathogens standard specifically prohibits "bending, breaking, recapping, or removing" needles. OSHA is expected to issue a guidance document in the near future to specify this, since most labs, hospitals, and medical practices are out of compliance with this requirement. We will discuss this in depth in a future issue of OSHAWatch newsletter .

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