Needlestick injuries continue to be a major healthcare problem, but one that is preventable with the use of proper safety devices and training.
A needlestick injury can be life altering. It affects not only the person who sustained the injury but also the people around them. Federal and state laws require that healthcare facilities have a needlestick prevention program in place, including the use of safety engineered devices. There are effective changes you can make to reduce blood borne exposures from accidental needlestick and sharps-related injuries that will help protect you, your family and patients.
Why is preventing needlestick injuries important?
Occupational exposure to blood and bodily fluids continues to be a major problem for healthcare workers.
This is why needlestick and blood exposure presentation for every patient and every procedure is important. The use of safety engineered devices is a requirement by OSHA, CMS and the Joint Commission. In addition, the financial cost and emotional anxiety of the injury for the healthcare personnel and their facility is huge.
Why is occupational exposure still an issue?
- There is an increasing number of patients accessing health care clinics and physician offices with infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C or HIV.5 This increases the risk for accidental exposure to a larger pool of healthcare personnel.
- Changing risks associated with co-infection. There is also an increase in patients with one or more blood borne pathogens, such as HIV/Hepatitis C, that are co-infected with another blood borne pathogen or a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection such as MRSA. This increases the risk of spreading these infections to healthcare workers via accidental needlesticks or other sharps-related injuries.
1. Injury and Exposure
The International Safety Center Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet) tracks incidents of needlesticks, along with injury from sharp items like blades and broken glass, within the healthcare industry. According to EPINet, the top 3 areas of injury and exposure are:
- Needlesticks – Disposable syringes/needles cause most incidents reported by healthcare workers with 40% injuring nurses
- Contaminated sharps – Includes sutures, scalpels, broken glass, lancets, scissors and blood collection devices such as vacuum tubes and phlebotomy needles
- Blood and body fluids – EPINet data shows that compliance with or use of personal protective equipment is still quite low no matter the healthcare setting.
- 81% of exposures touched unprotected skin due to lack of PPE protection
2. Cost for needlestick injuries
- According to the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP), initial treatment for a needlestick injury can run between $800 and $6,000, depending on treatment provided.6
- OSHA fines have increased in recent years and can now be up to $12,000 per violation.
3. OSHA’s Blood Borne Pathogen Standard requirements
- Documentation of your facility’s exposure control risk plan
- Engineering & Work Practice Controls
- Safety Engineered Device Use and Activation
- Disposal Protocol
- Frontline Employee Evaluation & Selection of safety devices
- PPE Availability and Use
- Annual Staff Training
- Documentation and Procedure regarding employee HBV vaccination
- Post-Exposure Procedures
- Recordkeeping and BBP Sharps Injury Log. OSHA launched a new requirement 2016 that facilities must submit documentation electronically to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. Reporting runs from July 1 – Dec 1 of 2017.
How to reduce the risk in your facility:
1. Include frontline employee feedback
Research shows that when non-managerial frontline employees are part of the evaluation and selection of safety devices, the likelihood that these employees will actually use the safety devices improves. Including front line employees in your feedback loop creates a facility-wide culture and climate of safety and fosters greater compliance.
2. Simplify the process for selecting the device
There are three primary criteria that workers should use to select a new safety device:
- Ease of use
- Patient safety and comfort
- Device must be safe for the user
“Remember, selecting a safer device based solely on the lowest cost is not appropriate. Selection must be based on employee feedback and on device effectiveness.”
– Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3. Overcome resistance to change
Improving your facility’s use of proper safety devices can involve both institutional and personal motivators. Institutional motivators include economic reasons such as maintaining productivity, since there are fewer days away from work resulting from injuries and exposures, and remaining competitive in recruitment and retention of skilled personnel.
Personal change motivators include making sure that safety devices are available and that activation of safety features are implemented, proper training on the use of devices and PPE, and making sure that healthcare workers understand the benefit to them personally in helping to protect themselves, their family, and the patient.
Resources for Healthcare Providers
Download and provide to selected staff members our convenient evaluation form to help determine which sharps safety technology best fits the needs of your facility. (During an inspection, OSHA is likely to request documentation of the evaluation process.)
For guidelines and additional resources on preventing needlestick and sharps injuries, visit our dedicated UPrevent infection prevention web resource.
View the WebinarSee all Webinars
1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/sharps/sharps.html
2 American Nurses Association http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/Factsheets-and-Toolkits/Fact-Sheet.pdf, 2010|
3 Occupational Safety and Health Administration https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/sharps/sharps.html
4 Infection Control Today, http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2013/08/prevention-of-needlestick-injuries-can-save-us-healthcare-system-more-than-1-billion-annually.aspx, 2013
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0504-hepc-mortality.html, 2016
6 Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare, AOHP Study: Successfully Reducing Wing set-related Needlestick Injuries, Spring 2014