one has his or her own way to deal with sharps
based on level of comfort and familiarity. Many
simply don’t take the occupational risk of dealing with sharps on a regular basis seriously, and
it puts them, their colleagues, and their patients
Taylor also cites a 2008 study of 99 hospitals
in Massachusetts that found staff members
weren’t always using engineered safety devices
even if they were available.
There are a number of viable solutions, strategies, and measures medical facilities and the
employees who work there can take to lessen
the risk of sharps-related injuries. Some, such
as double-gloving and the implementation of
blunt-tip suture needles, are obvious options.
But that may not be enough.
“Double glove does give you one more bar-
rier,” says Melissa Fischer, clinical specialist at
Megadyne. “It’s one suggestion and one part of
the total solution.”
Use of neutral zones or hands-free tech-
niques for passing sharps items to eliminate
hand-to-hand passing is one very effective
technique that isn’t being put to practice nearly
enough, says Taylor.
“That’s probably another great way to help
reduce some of the injuries, because a lot of
them happen because of where the sharp gets
placed or because someone is in a hurry and
reaches out to grab the sharp instead of the
handle or end of the device,” says Fischer.
“It’s not forcing a product change,” she con-
tinues. “It’s not making surgeons or nurses use
a device that they don’t feel comfortable using.”
Using verbal notifications when passing a
sharp device is a simple and cost-free way to
improve safety for those facilities that choose
not to invest in engineered sharps injury pre-
ment can do is bring together a multi-disciplin-ary team and have everyone handle a sharp,
whether it’s a surgeon, scrub tech, or nurse,”
says Fischer. “Make them the product selection committee, and have them being the ones
who look at all the possibilities out there. If you
have a team involved and you have people who
are passionate or interested in that project, you
are going to get a lot further down the line in
terms of getting people to accept that. It’s coming from your peers, and not administration.
Despite compliance regulations such as the
Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000
and the 2002 OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen
regulation, Taylor says there are many misconceptions out there related to sharps safety. Two
of note are that implementing safety devices
is expensive and healthcare providers have no
input on the selection of these devices.
“By law, healthcare workers who are involved
in direct patient care must be solicited for input
on the identification, evaluation, and selection
of the safest devices,” she says.
infecting sharps exposure will run between $500
for a low-risk exposure and $3,000 for a high-risk exposure because of the reporting, medical
Enforcement Is Key
Fischer believes it is all a problem of enforcement – or lack thereof. It’s up to management
to take the necessary steps to ensure safe sharps
handling is taking place in their facility, and she
offers one out-of-the-box solution for addressing the problem of enforcement.
“One of the most important things a depart-
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