In August 2007, the Ontario government announced a new Needle Safety Regulation (O. Reg. 474/07) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Currently, the regulation applies only to hospitals and will come into effect September 1, 2008. The new regulation mandates the use of safety-engineered needles (SENs). A SEN is a hollow-bore needle that is designed to eliminate or minimize the risk of a skin puncture injury to the worker or a needless device, licensed as a medical device by Health Canada.

Currently, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and Long- Term Care are jointly consulting with industry and labour stakeholders on a proposal to extend the scope of the Needle Safety Regulation to additional health care workplaces such as longterm care homes, designated psychiatric facilities not captured in the current regulation (i.e., those that provide outpatient and other services under the Mental Health Act), laboratories and specimen collection centres. The provincial government is looking to implement the proposed extension of the Regulation to these additional health care workplaces by April 1, 2009. In addition, the provincial government intends to mandate the use of SENs in home care and other workplaces such as doctor’s offices and ambulances sometime in 2010.

To address patient care, availability and other issues, the Needle Safety Regulation provides several exceptions to the requirements for when a SEN is required. A SEN is not required if: 

  • A worker determines that the use of a SEN would pose a greater risk of harm to himself or herself, another worker or the patient than would a conventional hollow-bore needle; 
  • An employer is unable, despite making a reasonable effort, to obtain a SEN that is appropriate for the work; and 
  • An emergency is declared or a situation exists that constitutes or may constitute a serious risk to public health, an employer’s supplies of SENs have been exhausted, and postponing work would create a greater risk of harm than the risk of using a hollow-bore needle that is not a SEN.

Needlestick injuries can transmit bloodborne diseases including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. SENs have been designed with built-in safety features that eliminate or minimize the risk of a needle puncture to the user (e.g. hinged needle cap, retractable needle), thereby protecting health care workers from injury and exposure to blood-borne diseases.