Q Fever! Medical Humor & Satire

June 28, 2000 | Volume 1, Issue 2

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OSHA Body-Armour Proposal Termed Overkill

Healthcare workers divided on measures to prevent needlestick injuries

WASHINGTON, DC—In a continued attempt to prevent transmission of Hepatitis and HIV to hospital workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended that these workers "suit up" in Medieval-style plate mail prior to performing any procedure that might place them at risk for needlestick injuries.

Charles N. Jeffress, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, is said to have hatched the idea after viewing the recent Disney production of The Thirteenth Warrior.

According to Administration spokesman Len O'Neill, Jeffress had been considering a variety of measures to decrease the risk of needlestick injury, but was impressed by the obvious impenetrability exhibited by the body armour in the face of a variety of hazardous devices, including spears, arrows, swords, and spiky metal balls attached to sticks with chains.

Protective gear mandated
by OSHA for health care
workers using needles and
other sharp objects.

"It's our position that the safety of hospital workers isn't negotiable", said O'Neill. "We have now performed in-house tests that demonstrate conclusively that a well-made, heavy suit of armour, with a visor, gauntlets, and a breastplate, provides highly effective protection against most medical devices."

The recommendation has proved to be the most controversial issued by OSHA since its 1993 recommendation that hospital workers avoid tuberculosis exposure by covering their mouths and noses with plastic dry cleaning wrappers.

Several healthcare professionals have already expressed concern that the negatives associated with body armour might outweigh its benefits.

Jennifer Mroznik, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Nursing, said that while her organization applauded the move to provide healthcare workers with additional protection, she was worried that the 65 pound suits of armour might be associated with back and neck injuries.

"We're already having lots of problems with this kind of injury among nurses, and would anticipate an increase if [plate mail body armour] is mandated".

Dr. Willard Barker, a vascular surgeon in Oak Park IL, said that he was concerned that helmets and steel gauntlets might make it difficult for him to perform certain procedures, particularly pediatric microsurgery. "We tried out the helmet in the OR", said Barker. "I find that the visor tends to slam shut unpredictably".

As Chief of Surgery at Northwest Community Hospital, Barker is required to wear a helmet topped with a large bronze carving of a wild boar, which makes it difficult for the 64 year-old Barker to change direction suddenly when walking down the hall.

"It hinders my ability to make rounds in a timely fashion", he said.

Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana) has also expressed concerns about whether requiring hospital workers to wear the armour constitutes the best use of dwindling healthcare resources. "Right now we've got brave men and women in law enforcement who are out there, day in, day out, with out so much as a chain-mail tunic", said Burton. "And I think that's a shame."

Assistant Secretary Jeffress rejected Burton's comments, and challenged the Senator to joust with him on the Washington Mall. It was unclear at the time of writing whether Burton would accept the challenge.

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