Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 17

03/22/2005 01:00 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Heard & Held
HB 120-HEALTH CARE EMPLOYEE PROTECTION                                                                                        
CHAIR ANDERSON announced  that the first order  of business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 120,  "An Act  relating to safety  devices and                                                               
sharp instruments for the prevention  of the spread of bloodborne                                                               
pathogens  in  health  care  employees;   and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PEGGY  WILSON, Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,                                                               
announced that this bill basically  brings Alaska standards up to                                                               
the  federal standards.   The  main  difference between  Alaska's                                                               
regulations [for  bloodborne pathogens] and those  of the federal                                                               
government  is that  Alaska's regulations  didn't inlcude  dental                                                               
offices and other medical offices with less than 25 [employees].                                                                
1:17:46 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON said  that there were two  reasons for this                                                               
improvement.    She  explained  that  if  [these  procedures  for                                                               
bloodborne  pathogens] weren't  already being  used, the  effects                                                               
would be  disastrous to those  already working in  these offices.                                                               
Therefore, this  is almost a  housekeeping matter.   However, the                                                               
larger issue is  that failure to comply with  the federal minimum                                                               
standards  jeopardizes   the  state's  eligibility   for  federal                                                               
1:19:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ANDERSON highlighted  that HB 120 already  went through the                                                               
House Health,  Education and  Social Services  Standing Committee                                                               
and the  Department of Labor &  Workforce Development recommended                                                               
its introduction.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GUTTENBERG asked  if  there  were any  statistics                                                               
regarding people  who have been  exposed to  bloodborne pathogens                                                               
at  dental offices,  and  if  it was  greater  or  less than  the                                                               
exposure rates at regular medical offices.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON answered  that  dentists weren't  included                                                               
original   because  when   these   regulations  were   originally                                                               
implemented  a  member  of  the  House  of  Representatives,  who                                                               
happened to  be a dentist,  feared that including  dentists would                                                               
cost dentists more.  Therefore, dentists were exempted.                                                                         
1:19:48 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  asked  if  the  language  referring  to                                                               
having "not more than 25 employees" exempts dentists.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON indicated  that the aforementioned language                                                               
was used to exempt dentists.                                                                                                    
1:20:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  recalled that there was  concern for all                                                               
health care providers in all small settings, not just dentists.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  announced  that almost  all  health  care                                                               
providers are already in compliance  with [what is proposed in HB
GREY MITCHELL,  Director, Division  of Labor Standards  & Safety,                                                               
Department  of Labor  & Workforce  Development  (DLWD), spoke  in                                                               
support  of  HB 120.    He  characterized  it as  a  housekeeping                                                               
measure.   He explained that  at the  time this law  was created,                                                               
there were  no federal  standards for  bloodborne pathogens.   In                                                               
the year  2000, the federal  employee protection law  was created                                                               
and  special exemptions  were created  for small  employer groups                                                               
and dental groups.                                                                                                              
1:22:15 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. MITCHELL then stated that  in the following year, the federal                                                               
government   came   out   with  comprehensive   regulations   for                                                               
bloodborne pathogen  standards.  However, these  two professional                                                               
exemptions were not included in  the new regulations and thus the                                                               
state  was  at odds  with  the  federal Occupational  Safety  and                                                               
Health  Administration (OSHA)  program  because the  state had  a                                                               
less   strict  interpretation   regarding  when   the  protective                                                               
regulations had  to be in place  to keep workers safe.   He noted                                                               
that   these  regulations   also  protect   customers  at   these                                                               
1:23:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  MITCHELL  turned  to the  earlier  questions  regarding  the                                                               
number of incidences  and the number of employees.   Referring to                                                               
a list  he had  that didn't  detail employers  with less  than 25                                                               
employees,  he  guesstimated  that   30  percent  of  these  were                                                               
employers with  less than 25 employees.   There is a  total of 85                                                               
businesses  that   had  incidences   between  October   2003  and                                                               
September 2004,  12 of which  were dental establishments  and the                                                               
other  73 were  other health  care-related businesses.   He  then                                                               
said that the  other confusing element is that the  state law, AS                                                               
18.60.030(6), established  when the state was  given jurisdiction                                                               
over occupational safety and health  issues required the state to                                                               
maintain   standards   as   effective   as   federal   standards.                                                               
Therefore,  there  is  a conflict  between  statute  and  federal                                                               
standards.    The legislation  simply  intends  to eliminate  the                                                               
conflict  and  clarifies  the obligation  of  these  health  care                                                               
businesses  in protecting  their  employees and  the public  from                                                               
bloodborne pathogens.                                                                                                           
1:25:24 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. MITCHELL characterized  this matter as a  common sense issue.                                                               
He  related  that  the  [department's]  occupational  safety  and                                                               
health industrial  hygienist has found  that all of  the dentists                                                               
are complying because they don't want to risk exposure.                                                                         
1:26:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG, referring  to AS  18.60.890(G), pointed                                                               
out that  this statute,  which came  out a  couple of  years ago,                                                               
states that a  employer who employs 10 or  more front-line health                                                               
care  workers  shall  be  required  to  establish  an  evaluation                                                               
committee.  He then asked what  businesses are to do if they have                                                               
very small practices and the exemption is eliminated.                                                                           
MR. MITCHELL answered that right  now state law requires that the                                                               
business review the safety products on  the market.  If there are                                                               
10 employees or less, there has  to be one person who is directly                                                               
involved in reviewing  safety products.  Regardless  of the ratio                                                               
of  employees, 50  percent of  the employees  that do  the review                                                               
must have direct involvement with patient  care or lab work.  The                                                               
intent  is to  provide a  way for  the people  who are  using the                                                               
products to  have a  say in evaluating  the safety  procedures in                                                               
their clinic or lab.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  clarified  that he  is  concerned  with                                                               
throwing away  the provision.   He then asked how  the department                                                               
would  enforce  this and  determine  that  the business,  however                                                               
small, had an evaluation committee.                                                                                             
MR. MITCHELL  answered that  this was essentially  the case.   He                                                               
noted that  the dental community  doesn't have much  concern with                                                               
HB  120 because  there isn't  a lot  of technology  available for                                                               
dental facilities to use.  There is  a lot of common sense in the                                                               
[existing] statutes, he said.                                                                                                   
1:30:10 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  MITCHELL  said that  there  are  provisions that  allow  for                                                               
individual  analysis of  each practitioner's  situation.   If, in                                                               
the  mind of  the  doctor, the  use of  the  equipment would  not                                                               
provide any  additional safety  margin, then  they do  not bother                                                               
purchasing the equipment.  The  dental community cannot use a lot                                                               
of the equipment  that is on the  market so they do  not have any                                                               
consternation about  the issue,  as long as  they comply  as best                                                               
they can and are in compliance with federal law.                                                                                
PAT SENNER, Nurse, Alaska Nurses  Association, announced that she                                                               
as in  support of  the bill  and that she  was involved  with the                                                               
enactment of the  original Act.  She informed  the committee that                                                               
since the  federal act took  place in 2001,  there has been  a 50                                                               
percent  reduction  in  needle  sticks.   She  related  that  the                                                               
infection  of one  person  can  cost the  system  over a  million                                                               
dollars in  long-term care.   The safety devices  being discussed                                                               
were originally very expensive, which  is why the exemptions were                                                               
put into place.  However, the  cost has since decreased then, and                                                               
should no longer  be an issue.  She ended  by expressing the hope                                                               
that this bill would pass so  that state law can be in compliance                                                               
with federal law.                                                                                                               
1:33:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  asked  if   the  Alaska  State  Medical                                                               
Association (ASMA)  had taken a  position on  this or any  of the                                                               
other parts of the bill concerning  sharps and other devices.  He                                                               
surmised  that some  of the  smaller practitioners  would be  the                                                               
ones to testify because the larger entities are covered.                                                                        
CHAIR ANDERSON  said that  he did not  think the  packet included                                                               
anything [from  the small practitioners  or ASMA].   He suggested                                                               
that the lack of testimony or  endorsement could be the result of                                                               
the matter not being on "their radar".                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG   recalled  relating  that   the  Dental                                                               
Society is amenable  to HB 120, although there  is no information                                                               
in  the  committee  packet specifying  the  aforementioned.    He                                                               
expressed  concern about  the teeth  cleaning  devices and  asked                                                               
whether they would qualify as sharps.                                                                                           
CHAIR  ANDERSON   answered  that   this  will  be   addressed  by                                                               
Representative Wilson before it goes to the House floor.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  moved to  report HB  120 out  of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                             

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