WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will consider requiring hospitals and health care facilities to use safety devices that could reduce needlestick injuries to workers.

OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress said Thursday that the agency, this fall, will being considering whether new requirements on safety devices are necessary to reduce potentially dangerous needlestick injuries to the nation's 5.6 million health care workers.

``We now have an opportunity to provide them with protection from the hazards of sharps and needlestick injuries that can threaten their health and well-being,'' Jeffress said.

The announcement coincided with the release of an OSHA report, based on comments from 400 health care workers and facilities, that said safety devices aren't being used widely enough to substantially reduce the 590,000 needlestick injuries each year.

Needles and other sharp medical objects potentially carry bloodborne illnesses such as AIDS and hepatitis. Now, it's up to individual facilities whether to use protective devices.

In the next four to six weeks, OSHA also plans to strengthen a requirement that health care facilities evaluate their policies on the use of safety devices. Jeffress said not all facilities have complied in the past.

The agency, which enforces workplace safety laws, previously proposed stricter reporting of all injuries resulting from contaminated needles and sharp objects.