The use of safety devices to prevent needlesticks and other sharp related injuries has increased dramatically in the past decade. The first sharps injury prevention devices were made available on the market in 1988 but not all facilities were utilizing any safety devices in the following years. In November 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law, requiring OSHA to expand its Bloodborne Pathogen Standard to include a mandate for employers to provide safety devices with ‘engineered sharps injury protection and needleless systems’ to reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Also required is annual input from frontline workers for identification, evaluation and selection of devices and other controls. More than thirty years have passed since the first safety device was available and the number of injuries daily is still too high.
The occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from sharps injuries continues to be a serious problem.Most facilities have sharps injury prevention strategies in place. The most effective is to eliminate the use of a needle or sharp when possible. Needleless devices, blunt suture needles and lock safety features are also very effective. Employers should provide needle devices with safety features and puncture-resistant sharp disposal containers. Ensure adequate lighting is available to perform procedures safely.
Maintain work spaces that are clean and free of clutter for procedures that require the use of sharps. Employees avoid using sharps if safer alternatives are available. Avoid recapping or bending needles after use. Promptly dispose of used sharps in appropriate containers.
Before use, plan for the safe handling and proper disposal of sharps. Do not rush or work quickly with sharps. Be aware of surroundings and other employees in the vicinity, taking care not to collide when sharps are present. Participation in safety classes and continuing education is recommended.
Providing feedback to employers regarding equipment and devices may help in preventing injuries. Careful handling of any sharps, specifically contaminated ones, can prevent injury and reduce risk of exposure to unwanted pathogens.