November 14, 2014
Needlestick injuries are a hazard facing anyone that works regularly with hypodermic syringes and other medical sharps, as there are a variety of instruments that can puncture the skin in a similar, dangerous manner. These injuries can occur at any time when people use, disassemble, or dispose of needles. When not disposed of properly, needles can become concealed in linen or garbage and injure other workers who encounter them unexpectedly.
However, the devices healthcare staff are most at risk of depends on the department they are working in within a hospital. This issue is hindered by a lack of accurate figures and statistics, as this too often masks the real scale of the issue.
But why are needlestick injuries such an expensive issue for healthcare organisations? One of the main factors is that they are the most common risk of exposure for healthcare workers. The American Journal of Infection Control report 'Incidence of Needlestick and other sharp objects injuries in newly graduated nurses' found that new workers were between one and 2.6-times more likely to be stuck by a needle than any other sharp object.
This was supported by a study from the UK that cited needlestick injuries as the most common form of significant exposure, with 68 per cent of these reported injuries caused by hollow bore needles.
Rough estimates suggest that a million healthcare workers every year are affected by needlestick injuries. If these could be reduced, it would save the American healthcare system around $1 billion every year, studies have claimed.
Safe in Common (SIC) analysed the various expenses of the US healthcare system, studying the number of needlestick injuries to estimate the cost of these to the overall expenditure.
It calculated that around 1,000 people suffer percutaneous injuries each day in American hospitals. It estimated that each needlestick injury costs the state $3,042 per victim each year. The costs include laboratory fees for testing exposed employees, labour associated with testing and counselling, and the costs of post-exposure follow-ups.
In the UK, it is thought that needlestick injuries cost £500,000 per NHS Trust every year, according to a Memorandum submitted by the Safer Needle Network. Introducing safety devices costs just £136,000 a year.
There are currently more than 30 known pathogens that a person can contract from a needlestick puncture. This includes bacterial, fungal and viral infections, while only a small amount of blood is necessary to transfer a life changing illness such as hepatitis or AIDs. However, there are three main diseases that those campaigning for sharps safety focus on - HIV, Hepatitis B and C.
This makes reducing needlestick injuries a priority for organisations in terms of ensuring employee health, and preventing viruses from spreading, as well as reducing their overall expenditure and limiting a drop in productivity.