Archive December 2013 XIV, No. 12

Getting the Point of Sharps Safety

8 questions on the rules that protect your staff.

Beverly Kirchner, RN, BSN, CNOR, CASC


— UNDER THE KNIFE Many surgeons are hesitant to give up their traditional scalpels. Are there alternatives for safer practices?

In recent years, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its state counterparts have been stepping up inspections for compliance with sharps safety and other issues at surgical facilities nationwide. Some of the resulting citations and fines have made headlines. How well do you know the agency's needlestick prevention regulations? Read over the following quiz to find out.

1. OSHA directs surgical facilities to develop a written blood and body fluid exposure control plan. Which of the following is not required for inclusion in the plan?

  1. A review of the exposure risks employees face on the job.
  2. Trials of manufacturers' latest safety devices.
  3. Documentation of physicians' opinions on retractable scalpels.
  4. Standardization of your surgical supply purchases.

Answer: d. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard ( is the rule of the road as far as sharps safety is concerned. But you may not be aware that you're ultimately responsible for developing an exposure control plan, or are resistant to it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Conditions For Coverage makes the plan mandatory, though, and "We've always done it this way, no one's ever been stuck" doesn't pass muster.

Besides government regulators, many accreditation agencies and professional organizations have issued guidelines on identifying sharps risks and implementing safer practices, based on the OSHA regulations. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses' Sharps Safety Tool Kit compiles the necessary rules, references and forms all in one place. It'll save you hours of work.

2. How often should you review and update your exposure control plan?

  1. Updating is not required if no injuries are reported.
  2. Before each accreditation survey.
  3. Annually.
  4. Quarterly.
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