Sharps related injuries are unfortunately still too common. Prevention and training are key factors to mitigating risk of hepatitis.
May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States. During the entire month, the CDC works to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral hepatitis and encouraging safety, vaccination, and testing. For healthcare facilities, this also includes sharps safety protocols.
According to the CDC, there are approximately 385,000 needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries to hospital-based healthcare personnel each year, which is why sharps safety is one of the top concerns in the medical community. On November 6, 2000, President Clinton signed The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (H.R. 5178), which codifies and strengthens federal OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
Sharps is actually the medical term for a sharp-pointed object that can cut or puncture the skin, and this includes needles, syringes, lancets, auto-injectors, and connection needles.
The most common infections occupationally transmitted via sharps injuries during patient care include hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Fortunately, the majority of sharps injuries are preventable. Perhaps the clearest strategy for prevention is the elimination of sharp instruments whenever possible; for example, a surgeon has many alternative instruments to rely upon, such as electrocautery. Of course, elimination is not a possibility for busy labs, doctors’ offices, and even assisted living facilities.
There are some basic principles of infection control when it comes to dealing with sharps, and it is imperative that administrators and managers:
- Take action to stay healthy
- Avoid contact with blood and body fluids
- Limit the spread of blood and body fluid contamination
- Make objects safe for use
Implementing a sharps safety program is the best defense against sharps-related injury to prevent the spread of hepatitis. OSHA recommends that institutions look at their needle devices to determine safety and check how sharps are being handled and disposed of. Relying on safer needle devices, such as those that have built-in safety control devices or those that use a self-sheathing needle can mitigate risk of injury.
According to the FDA, sharps disposal guidelines state:
- Used sharps can only be disposed of in a sharps container
- Sharps containers may be purchased from supply companies, such as Red Bags
- Sharps containers must be rigid, puncture-proof, and have lids that seal securely
- The FDA also states that sharps containers must absolutely be discarded when reaching the fill line on the label, which is approximately ¾ full. To avoid contamination and injury, containers should not be overfilled.
At the end of the day, successful prevention is always the result of successful training. Red Bags offers an online OSHA Compliance Training program that covers everything facilities need to know to keep employees safe, including bloodborne pathogen standards. An emphasis on employee safety helps you protect your well-trained and valuable team.
Red Bags also offers approved bins, red bags, and sharps containers so you can further ensure sharps safety within your organization.
A sharps management program is a proactive service to help healthcare facilities improve employee safety, mitigate the spread of hepatitis, and to control the cost of doing business while protecting and preserving the environment.
Stay up to date on all things medical waste by subscribing to the Red Bags blog.
You Might Also Like:
- Sharps Disposal 101
- The Basics of Sharps Management, and Why Containers Matter
- What Medical Waste Training Is Required (and How Often) For Staff