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The employee's role in NSI prevention

January 07, 2015

Each year, thousands of healthcare workers are injured from needles and other medical sharps. This can not only be very traumatic for the person and team involved, but also puts them at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B or C. Exposure or even potential exposure to these bloodborne pathogens can substantially change a person's life, as well as having a detrimental impact on the wider healthcare organisation.

With this in mind, prevention is an obvious course of action for both employers and employees. All healthcare workers in a hospital setting are at risk, meaning it is important that there is a comprehensive plan in place to ensure all nurses, doctors, dental staff, housekeepers and any other staff members are trained and educated on how to keep themselves safe.

As an employee, there are several measures you can take to reduce your risk of suffering a needlestick injury to the lowest possible level, while it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure all staff are well informed about this.

So what can employees do to safeguard themselves and those around them?

Training
As mentioned previously, training is a significant factor when it comes to reducing the number of staff suffering needlestick injuries in the workplace. It's important that there is an appropriate system in place to ensure these sessions are not only delivered to new staff who join the organisation, but that older members are kept up to date with any changes to legislation or company guidelines.

Training should also be delivered throughout a healthcare worker's career, giving them a refresh course after an appropriate amount of time to make sure the information remains fresh and they do not pick up any bad habits.

Taking responsibility
It's important that each member of staff takes responsibility for their own safety while in the workplace, as well as that of patients. A lot of attention is given to ensuring patients are safe and well cared for while in hospital, and rightly so, but it is just as important that healthcare workers prioritise and take measures to protect their own safety. In terms of needlestick prevention this often includes identifying areas in their own knowledge or training where they are weak or unsure, as well as attending necessary training sessions.

It's also important that members of staff take responsibility when it comes to the reporting protocol should an incident happen, and the areas of outlined by risk assessments.

Using safety devices
Safety devices are an important part of training but there should be additional focus placed on these instruments as they are of significant importance. With both inactive and active instruments available, it's vital that healthcare workers are aware of what they do or don't need to do in order to ensure they are safe. For many instruments, a safety mechanism will need activating in order to protect the healthcare worker from the exposed needle. For employees, they must know which of the instruments in practice need to be activated and which do not.

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