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Requirement for safety-engineered needles

September 10, 2013

In July 2010, the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code changed to require employers to provide and ensure that any medical sharp is a safety-engineered medical sharp.

The code also requires employers to establish safe work procedures for employees required to use and disposal of medical sharps. The procedures must be in writing and available to workers. The procedures must include a discussion of:

  • The hazards associated with the use and disposal of medical sharps;
  • The proper use, limitations of, and disposal of safety-engineered medical sharps;
  • Procedures to eliminate accidental contact with medical sharps; and
  • Any other relevant information.

A safety-engineered medical sharp is a medical sharp (e.g., needle, scalpel) that is designed to, or has a built-in safety feature or mechanism that eliminates or minimizes the risk of needlestick injuries and other puncture wounds.

  • Self-sheathing needles have a built-in sheath or sleeve that extends to cover the needle. Retractable syringes are designed so the needle can be pulled up inside the syringe.
  • Needleless systems use threaded ports on IV tubing, so healthcare workers can remove the needle from the syringe after drawing up medication, and then simply screw the syringe directly into the port. 

The exceptions

The requirement to use safety-engineered sharps does not apply only if:

  • Use of the required safety-engineered medical sharp is not clinically appropriate; or
  • The required safety-engineered sharp is not available in commercial markets.

The occurrence of either of these conditions in pharmacy practice will be extremely rare.

A summary of the requirements

Part 35 of the OHS code relates specifically to the issue of exposure to bloodborne pathogens via accidental needlestick injury. View a summary here.