Getting stuck by a needle in the hospital or some other type of medical setting can be a lot more concerning than having a simple needle stick injury. The needle could have been used on another patient who had dangerous infective diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B or C, or other bloodborne pathogens. If you are stuck by such a needle, the hospital or other healthcare professionals could be at fault for not following the federal guidelines in disposing of used needles (also known as “sharps”).
These are standards set up by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, specifically 29 CFR § 1910. Under these guidelines, if blood or other potentially infectious materials, as defined by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standards, are present or may be present on the needle or sharp, it is considered contaminated. Therefore certain procedures must be followed to dispose of them. Likewise, if you work at the hospital or healthcare office, protective equipment must be provided to you.
Under these federal guidelines hospitals or other healthcare providers that employ medical staff who work with needles must have a process in place so that contaminated needles or sharps are placed in disposable containers immediately or soon after use. These disposal containers must be easily accessible and located as close as possible to the area where needles are being used. The disposal containers should be placed in areas where patients, such as young children and psychiatric patients, cannot reach them and get stuck by them. These disposal containers must be available not only in areas where needles are being used but may be found after use.
A contaminated needle can never be broken or sheared. They can only be recapped, bent, or removed if doing so is required for a medical procedure or if there is no other feasible alternative but to recap, bend, etc. If such action is necessary the hospital or medical office must ensure either a mechanical device is on hand to do so, or that the medical staff is trained to use a one-handed technique to do so. Tongs or forceps can also be used to hold the needle. Employees must not be permitted to clean contaminated, broken glass by hand.
The containers to dispose of the needles must be puncture-resistant with leak-proof bottoms and sides. They have to be labeled or color-coded to make it clear they contain hazardous material. These containers must also have a lid and kept upright to prevent the material in them from spilling out. More importantly, the must be replaced and emptied routinely so they do not get overfilled thus increasing the risk of a needle stick. The hospital or medical office must also ensure reusable disposable containers are not emptied or cleaned manually.
If the needles are reusable, the hospital or medical office must make sure they cannot be stored and processed in a way that requires medical staff to reach into a container and potentially get stuck. Disposal containers must be closed before they are removed or replaced to prevent spilling. If there is a chance of leakage from the container it must be placed in a secondary container.
If a hospital or medical office violates these guidelines resulting in you or a loved one being stuck by a contaminated needle, you could have a claim against the hospital. This will require a review of your records to determine, and potentially consultation with medical experts. If you are an employee at the hospital or medical office and were stuck by a contaminated needle, you could have a claim if you were stuck due to the negligence of an independent contractor or someone who is not an employee at the hospital. If you are stuck due to the fault of your employer you would have a workers’ compensation claim instead.
The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling needle stick injury cases. If you or a loved one suffered injuries from a contaminated needle stick, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-525-6824.