Healthcare workers not taking sharps injuries seriously

April 28, 2014

Needlestick injuries are still one of the most dangerous risks for healthcare professionals, and raising awareness is at the heart of this issue. These minimal incidents can result in the victim contracting diseases through blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. 

The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has been one of the groups at the forefront of trying to reduce needlestick injuries, with a great deal of their members being at risk as they often handle contaminated sharps.

AORN has published several documents covering the issue and encouraging the prevention of such incidents. In 2005, it released its Guidance Statement for Sharps Injury in the Perioperative Setting, and in 2013 its Recommended Practices for Sharps Safety was published online.

Speaking to Infection Control, Mary Ogg, perioperative nursing specialist and lead author of the new sharps safety recommended practices, said she is determined to completely eliminate sharps accidents. 

She said that these injuries should not be a part of a healthcare workers' day, and insisted they could be prevented.

However, she said adopting safety practices has been challenging for healthcare workers as it is a "complex issue", which has many factors and requires a multi-faceted approach. Only through using evidence-based practices that "employ all levels of the OSHA hierarchy of controls", will needlestick injuries be reduced.

The new AORN Recommended Practices for Sharps Safety aims to address the problem with  a comprehensive approach that factors in all issues.

In its document, it advises that a control plan is established concerning bloodborne pathogens exposure, as well as work practice controls for handling sharps. There should also, according to the AORN, be sharps with safety-engineered devices to reduce the risk as much as possible.

AORN also stressed that it is imperative that each worker realises their personal and professional responsibility in preventing sharps injuries, with the support of initial and ongoing education on sharps safety principles and practices to help them.

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