A new regulation under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act will make safety engineered needles or needleless systems mandatory in all hospitals. The new regulation comes into force on September 1, 2008.

The provincial government intends to require the use of safety engineered needles or needleless systems in long-term care facilities, psychiatric facilities, laboratories and specimen collection centres in 2009 and in home care and other workplaces such as doctor's offices and emergency response unit in 2010. Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia already mandate the use of safety-engineered needles. British Columbia will follow in 2008.

Needlestick injuries can have serious consequences for health care workers. Needlestick injuries are capable of transmitting blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. In 2001, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that of Canada's 750,000 health care workers, an estimated 66,000 workers experience needlestick injuries each year or, on a daily basis, 180 health care workers experience needlestick injuries each day.

The goal of Regulation 474/07 is to protect workers from infections and illness by preventing needlestick injuries. Safety-engineered needles are a type of engineering control designed to prevent needlestick injuries. A safety-engineered needle (see example in diagram) is a hollow- bore needle that is designed to eliminate or minimize the risk of a puncture injury to the worker. Under Regulation 474/07, the needle must be licensed as a medical device by Health Canada.

Safety-engineered needles should be a control within an organization's comprehensive Needlestick Injury Prevention program. The program should also include the following: 

  • A system to identify and assess the potential for needlestick hazards in the workplace; 
  • Statistical analysis to identify injury trends and a system that communicates these trends to management and the workplace; 
  • Safe work procedures on the safe use of needles, scalpel blades, other sharp items and safety devices; 
  • Effective disposal systems;
  • Reporting of all needlestick and sharps-related injuries; 
  • A surveillance program that provides in-depth analysis of needlestick injuries; 
  • Training for workers on the safe use and disposal of needles and safety devices; and, 
  • A system to identify improved equipment design.