OSHA recently issued a new compliance directive for enforcing the bloodborne pathogens standard that was revised in January and which became effective on April 18. The compliance directive updates an earlier directive issued in 1999 and incorporates changes mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act passed in November 2000.

The new compliance directive gives OSHA inspectors guidance in enforcing the standard, which covers occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. The directive also provides consistent inspection procedures.

The directive implements changes made to the standard that focus on the requirement that employers select safer needle devices as they become available and involve employees in identifying and choosing those devices. The standard now also requires most employers to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps.

The major new requirements of the bloodborne pathogens standard are highlighted in the directive. These include:

  • Evaluating and implementing safer needle devices as part of the re-evaluation of engineering controls during an employer's annual exposure control plan;

  • Documenting the involvement of non-managerial, frontline employees in choosing safer devices; and

  • Establishing and maintaining a sharps injury log for recording injuries from contaminated sharps.