Safety On Point - Safety Legislation

Among clinicians, healthcare workers and staff, accidents involving "medical sharps" occur frequently, at an estimated rate of 3.5 million incidents per year worldwide. Many of these cases can be attributed to mishaps wih IV catheters, hypodermic needles, blood collection devices and vascular access needles.

A needlestick injury or case of blood exposure can devastate the healthcare institution, the practice and the victim, who needs to be tested for possible transmission of blood-borne infection. For a victim who contracts an infection or a disease, there is medical care and even the prospect of long-term health consequences.

Taking measures to avoid needlestick and blood exposure is the best defense, and it makes good sense.

Safety On Point


In Canada, occupational safety and health programs are organized and administered at the provincial level.


The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code (2009) specifies that as of July 1, 2010 employers must ensure that a worker's exposure to bloodborne pathogens is controlled. The employer must provide safety-engineered medical sharps and ensure they are used for appropriate use cases.

British Columbia

British Columbia law under the Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) requires that any medical procedure that involves the use of a medical sharp requires that a safety engineered sharp device be used.


Ontario Regulation 474/07 covers the use of safety-engineered needles, specifically of hollow-bore needles and needleless devices. The regulation demands that employers provide safety engineered devices that are appropriate for the work, and that employees use them.

Bill 179 2005 "Safe Needles Save Lives Act" expands on the law, and requires that employers select devices that reduces to the greatest extent possible the likelihood of accidental injury, provide such devices, and that employees use them.

It requires the employer to train employees and provide information on the following:

risks associated with accidental parenteral contact with medical sharps;
safety-engineered medical sharps and their use;
workplace practices to reduce the risk of accidental parenteral contact with medical sharps; and
any other information relevant to the reduction of accidental parenteral contact with medical sharps.


S.M. 2005, c. 15, the “Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act (Needles in Medical Workplaces)”, requires that when hollow-bore or intravenous needles are used in a medical workplace, the employer must ensure that workers use only safety-engineered needles and that safe work procedures and practices for medical sharps are in place, including when an injury does occur. This includes investigating and preparing a report on the needlestick injury.

Helpful Links/Guidance:

Safer Work Places

Ontario Safety Association for Community & Healthcare (OSACH) Safety Engineered Medical Sharps (SEMS)


North America



The United States

Legislation on needlestick safety has been upheld in the United States for over a decade. The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law on November 6, 2000. The Act is meant to present the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for employers to implement safer medical devices to prevent needlestick injury, which can result in the exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

In 1991, OSHA published the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard. This standard set forth requirements for employers with workers exposed to blood, viruses or other microorganisms that cause bloodborne diseases, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses. With the advancement of safety devices since the standard was published and the continued concern over needlestick injury, Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in 2000. The bloodborne pathogens standard was last revised in 2001.

Summary of the Act

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act specifies that safer medical devices must be used to reduce or eliminate worker exposure to needlestick injury. The updated requirements include revisions to the exposure control plan and keeping a sharps injury log.

Exposure Control Plan

The new requirements to the Exposure Control Plan require the employer to:

  • Take into account innovations in medical procedures and technology. New safety devices to reduce needlestick injuries are introduced to the market regularly.
  • Document the analysis process of devices considered and their intended uses, and the justification for the selection of devices.
  • There is no single sharps device that is considered appropriate or effective for all circumstances and uses. Employers must choose devices that will not jeopardize patient or employee safety or not be a suitable for a procedure. They must also choose devices that will make an exposure incident involving a contaminated sharp less likely to occur.
  • Employees from non-managerial roles must be included in the selection of these safety devices. Documentation of this input must be included in the Exposure Control Plan.

Sharps Injury Log

For employers who have employees exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials in their job roles, and who are required to maintain a log of occupational injuries and illnesses under existing recordkeeping rules, must also maintain a sharps injury log.

The sharps injury log should:

  • maintain privacy of employees;
  • include the type and brand of device involved in the incident;
  • include the location of the incident; and
  • include a description of the incident.

Helpful Links/Guidance:

Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens; Needlesticks and Other Sharps Injuries; Final Rule

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Preventing Needlestick Injuries in Health Care Settings


North America


United States


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