Safety

Study: Building a compliant sharps exception process

OSHA Healthcare Connection, October 16, 2012

Properly documenting instances where safety devices are unavailable or inhibit patient care provides the basis for your annual evaluation

In November 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) was passed by the federal government. The act, which was adopted by OSHA under its Bloodborne Pathogens standard several months later, requires employers to identify, evaluate, and implement safer medical devices, and to keep a sharps injury log in an effort to reduce the number of healthcare workers that were being exposed to bloodborne pathogens from accidental sharps injuries.

Since then, medical device manufacturers have come forward with a number of safety -mechanisms for a wide range of needles and sharps that have drastically reduced injuries to healthcare workers. The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) estimates that about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually, although OSHA estimates needlestick injuries are as high as 800,000 each year. Data from the Exposure Prevention Information Network, run by the University of Virginia health system, indicates that sharps-related injuries in nonsurgical hospital settings decreased 31.6% from 2001 to 2006, following implementation of the NSPA.

OSHA's adoption of NSPA requires all facilities to use safety mechanisms whenever possible. However, there may be some instances where safety devices are detrimental to patient care, or a safety device has not been manufactured for a particular piece of equipment. Most phlebotomy, hypodermic, and IV needles used in healthcare have either passive or active safety mechanisms that cover the needle or retract the ¬needle to prevent injury, but there are certain surgical -instruments and longer needles that pose problems, says Bruce Cunha, RN, MS, COHN-S, manager of employee health and safety at Marshfield (Wisc.) Clinic.

Source: Excerpted from Hospital Safety Center, November 2012.

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