FOCUS ON: Patient & Staff Safety: Sharps Safety
At Your Own Risk
Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from needle stick injuries and other sharp
objects remains a serious problem for all the wrong reasons.
by Mike Schmidt
What is or isn’t acceptable risk is often a matter of opinion in today’s operating room.
Standards, policy, and practices are established
to help define the line between acceptable and
However, poor decisions, mistakes and errors
happen all the time. Sometimes the consequences are minimal. Other times, however, the
price paid for practicing risky behavior is quite
significant. This is a fact that always needs to
be considered when looking at what is or isn’t
acceptable risk when it comes to sharps safety.
“Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens
from needle stick injuries and other sharp objectives remains a serious problem,” says Patty Taylor, a
registered nurse and Vice President of Professional
Education and Clinical Affairs for Ansell.
Since passage of the federal Needlestick Safety
and Prevention Act of 2000 and the widespread
use of safety devices, the sharps injury rate in
non-surgical settings has fallen 31.6%; yet, in
the same time period, the sharps injury rate has
increased 6.5% in surgical settings, with reportedly infrequent use of safety devices, according to a study published in the Journal of the
American College of Surgeons.
Sharps injuries occur everywhere in the
healthcare environment. However, roughly a
third take place in the operating room. In terms
of the types of injuries that occur, almost half
(43.4%) come from suture needles, says Taylor.
First and foremost, it’s a problem of denial.
According to Taylor, the prevailing thought
among surgeons and hospital staff is that every-