Physician Practice

Training tips: Safe sharps and needlestick prevention

Medical Environment Update, March 1, 2019

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It has been almost 20 years since President Bill Clinton signed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act. The law, which instructed OSHA to revise its Bloodborne Pathogens standard with a new emphasis on preventing needlesticks, encouraged the use of newer safety devices designed to cap themselves with safety sheaths or to use retractable needles, and healthcare supply manufacturers answered by offering new safety devices. The law also required healthcare facilities to evaluate new sharp safety devices annually.

But despite years of warnings of bloodborne infections and diseases, as well as improved safety devices, about 5.6 million workers are in danger, and many are still suffering sharps injuries in frightening numbers.
The CDC and OSHA, in statistics that were updated only as recently as 2011, both say that about 385,000 needlestick injuries occur every year in hospitals, and up to 600,000 healthcare workers in total get stuck every year—that number may be closer to 1 million when you consider that up to 50% of needlesticks go unreported.

Of those needlesticks, 40% of injuries occur after use and before disposal of sharp devices, 41% of injuries occur during the use of sharp devices on patients, and 15% of injuries occur during or after disposal, according to the CDC. That doesn’t include laboratory workers who suffer injuries such as glass in the eye or other body part when a glass specimen tube accidentally breaks in a centrifuge, the slip of a razor blade while preparing a tissue sample, or other seemingly unlikely accidents involving sharp tools.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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