DATE:  May 15, 2001     NO:  01-55

CONTACT: Tom Stuart  PHONE: (907) 269-4940  

Department of Labor and Workforce Development

News Release

Existing AK Law Superceded In Part by More Stringent Federal Standards

Alaska has adopted by reference federal OSHA changes in its bloodborne pathogens standard intended to reduce needle sticks among healthcare workers and others who handle medical “sharps,” the Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced today. The new federal rules went into effect in April and were mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act.

The revisions clarify the need for employers to select safer needle devices, as they become available, and to involve employees in identifying and choosing the devices. 

“We want employees to know that Alaska will enforce the federal standard covering needlesticks and sharps to comply with OSHA requirements,” said Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Ed Flanagan. 

Last year the Legislature passed Senate Bill 261, which established needlestick requirements for health care employers with twenty-five or more employees. The new OSHA law applies to all employers, including dental offices, which were exempted from the state law. 

The department is promulgating regulations to implement those provisions of SB 261, which are not superceded by the federal law. These provisions require employers to keep detailed sharps injury logs and to establish product evaluation committees of front-line health workers.

In November 2000, Congress unanimously passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act to obligate employers to consider safer needle devices when they conduct their annual review of their exposure control plan. Safer sharps are considered the best strategy for worker protection, since they are considered appropriate engineering controls. The revised OSHA standard also involves frontline employees in the selection of the equipment used and purchased. The updated standard also provides for privacy of employees who have experienced needle sticks.

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