IR #98-44
Thursday, December 17, 1998

Rick Rice
Dean Fryer
(415) 972-8835


SAN FRANCISCO -- John C. Duncan, Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations today announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted, by unanimous vote, an emergency regulation designed to prevent needlestick injuries among healthcare workers.

"Today's vote indicates the commitment of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt permanent regulations as prescribed by legislation signed by Governor Wilson," Duncan said.

It is reported that each year approximately one hundred thousand California health care workers are injured by accidental needle sticks. Exposure to contaminated needles can lead to the spread of infections among health care workers and others who are inadvertently exposed to blood containing such agents as HIV and Hepatitis B and C. With the use of the sharps injury prevention devices required by this new regulation, it is estimated that the number of accidental needle sticks could be reduced by 76 percent.

Under the legislation signed by Governor Wilson on October 1, 1998, (AB 1208, Migden) the Standards Board was directed to adopt emergency regulations no later than January 15, 1999. The emergency regulations adopted today include sharps injury prevention requirements to be phased into effect by employers by August 1, 1999.

"Our Board was particularly impressed with the level of cooperation the healthcare industry, labor groups, and government agencies demonstrated in fashioning a workable solution to this occupational health concern," said Duncan. "The proposed emergency regulation was developed over the last six months using an advisory committee process where all affected parties worked together to develop this consensus proposal that is both reasonable and protective."

The adopted standard will be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law which has ten days to approve the new requirements. Once approved, the new regulation will replace the existing Cal/OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard.

To check on the status of this emergency regulation and to obtain a copy of the proposed language, please visit the Standards Board website at

# # #