How to ensure you are progressing in sharps safety

June 15, 2015

Like many areas of medicine, it's important to ensure that healthcare organisations are progressing, rather than becoming stagnated, when it comes to sharps safety. This makes sure that each healthcare worker is constantly learning and improving their own skills when it comes to protecting themselves from injuries from needles and other medical sharps.

This can include frequent training and updating the reporting process to ensure that each individual feels prepared to deal with preventing needlestick injuries, but also dealing with them in the most appropriate way should an incident occur.

However, it can be difficult for both individual healthcare workers and the wider organisation to see how sharps safety is progressing. 

The American Nurses Agency (ANA), along with 18 other nursing and healthcare organisations, published a statement on how to best protect workers from infectious diseases, which are a result of needlestick injuries.

Its 'Sharps Safety: Recommendations for Progress' looked at key ways that progress can be made and measures in sharps safety can be taken.

Although the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has improved safety for healthcare workers across the US, there are still many people who sustain injuries in hospitals.

Moving the Sharps Safety Agenda Forward in the United States: Consensus Statement and Call to Action gives organisations ways to further progress in sharps safety and protect healthcare workers from occupational hazards in hospitals.

Improving sharps safety in surgical settings is the first point the guidance addresses. This is perhaps one of the most challenging areas as medical sharps are crucial for healthcare workers in this area. It is also one of the most stressful environments in the hospital, making it vital that all professionals know the best way to conduct themselves around sharps such as scalpels.

According to the guidance, the best ways to improve safety in this key environment is to adopt a site-specific sharps safety policy for the operating room and ensure that healthcare workers are able to collaborate to develop and implement sharps safety standards and practices. 

It also recommends increasing Bloodborne Pathogens Standard compliance in surgical settings and using blunt suture needles where appropriate.

Anyone involved in sharps safety knows the importance of engaging healthcare workers in the cause, and making sure they understand the reasons behind specific procedures. This is supported by the ANA guidance, which says that supporting research will help professionals understand. This should lead to a reduction in exposure risk in non-hospital settings.

It also recommends engaging healthcare workers in the selection of safety devices, which is outlined in the EU needlestick directive.

In terms of safety devices, the guidance says there is a need for continued innovation in this area. This can be done by assessing each device for its specific clinical application and prioritising the most important ones. Organisations can then monitor progress in closing existing gaps and identify future needs. 

It's also important that training strategies are developed whenever new safety devices are introduced, so each healthcare worker knows how to safely and accurately use it.

Related Clinician and Patient Safety: