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What role do safety devices play?

July 02, 2014

The recent European Union (EU) legislation has called into focus areas of health and safety in the hospital and how hazards can be prevented. One of these core concerns surrounds needlesticks and medical sharps, and how healthcare workers can reduce their risk of suffering an injury.

Various training and awareness programmes educate healthcare workers about the dangers of suffering a percutaneous injury, mainly the risk of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens that can transmit infections such as HIV or hepatitis B and C.

Part of the recent EU law, and other similar legislations across the world, was that hospitals and healthcare organisations have the responsibility of ensuring their employees have access to safety devices where they are available. It also dictates that the onus is on the workers themselves to use these safer devices during the necessary procedures.

Safety devices
Giving staff the safest devices and equipment available is proven to reduce the risk of them suffering a needlestick injury. According to its research, the US Center for Disease Control estimates that using safety devices can prevent between 62 per cent and 88 per cent of sharps injuries. 

In order for an instrument to be called a safety device it must meet with certain industry standards, which include engineering controls or mechanisms built into the product. The term is fairly broad and can refer to a number of different types of devices and safety functions, but the common feature is that safety devices all reduce the risk of injuries for healthcare workers, when compared to traditional instruments. 

Passive safety features are in use before, during and after use of the device. These are by their nature safer than others as healthcare workers do not have to activate them. Passive features enhance the safety design and are more likely to have a greater impact on prevention.
Active devices, in contrast, must be manually activated for the safety feature to protect the healthcare worker. 

However, both of these safety devices can be beneficial for healthcare organisations and hospitals for a number of reasons.

Reduce needlestick injuries
As previously mentioned, the main purpose of safety devices is that they are able to reduce the risk of a healthcare worker suffering a percutaneous injury. This has obvious benefits for the employer, regardless of whether it is a private or public healthcare system. 
Not only is there a massive financial implication for every single needlestick injury suffered in the workplace, regardless of whether or not the person has actually contracted an infection from the incident, but there is also a substantial emotional impact that has to be taken into consideration.

Encourage safer conduct
Introducing safety devices for all healthcare workers allows the employee to become more aware of the dangers, and take conscious steps to reduce their risk. By allowing them to have access to these instruments, organisations are increasing the chance their staff will adopt other health and safety procedures and guidelines.

Increase patient care
By reducing the risk of the healthcare worker, hospitals and other medical institutions are ensuring patient care as well. Using safety devices provides a better standards of care as it promotes a more hygienic environment in which procedures are carried out in. With a reduced risk of suffering a life-changing injury, staff members are likely to be more relaxed and deliver better care to their patients.

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