New Jersey became the fifth state to protect health care workers from bloodborne diseases when Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed safe needle legislation into law. The New Jersey law requires health care facilities to use safe needle systems within 12 months.

This year, 17 states are expected to take up safe needle legislation, including Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia, according to the Service Employees International Union.

So far, legislation has been enacted in California, Texas, and Tennessee. Maryland passed legislation to study the issue and is expected to consider a bill this year, and Hawaii passed a binding resolution requiring hospitals to use safer needles.