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New Study Looks at Biggest Risk Factors for Sharps Injuries

October 28, 2016

What is the biggest risk factor for sharps injuries among healthcare workers?

According to the results of a new systematic review into needle and sharps injuries (NSIs) published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, there are a variety of factors responsible for increasing the risk of sharps injuries in healthcare settings.

As needlesticks can put doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff at risk of potentially life-threatening infections including hepatitis C and HIV, it is important for health boards to be aware of the biggest risk factors for this type of injury, alongside knowing what steps to take to prevent future sharps injuries.

The study authors stated: "Needlestick and sharps injuries are among the main job-related injuries that healthcare workers experience. In fact, contraction of hepatitis B or hepatitis C from work-related NSIs is one of the most common occupational hazards among healthcare workers."

Their research involved the analysis of a multitude of previous studies published between January 1998 and May 2015. They scanned papers in major scientific journals for evidence of several key words: NSI healthcare workers, risk factor, and factors associated. Eventually, 11 studies out of the original 18,642 were chosen for further focus.

It was found that nurses were the medical professionals most likely to experience a sharps injury at work, possibly due to the busy nature of their job seeing them moving from patient to patient quickly, putting them at greater risk of cross contamination of blood. The study authors took a range of factors into account when assessing this, finding that nurses who worked more shifts and who had not received dedicated sharps injury prevention training were more likely to suffer such an injury.

However, the overall greatest risk factor for sharps injuries was found to be the recapping of used needles. Not only does this expose the fingers and hands to sharp needles that could pierce the skin, but it is also unhygienic, as instruments contaminated with another person's blood should never be handled again. Instead, they should be disposed of in a designated sharps bin.

Overall, the researchers concluded: "Device, location or action cannot be separately considered as responsible for all types of the NSIs. Rather, each of them has a contribution to the NSIs. Nevertheless, factors with higher frequency should be given higher priority."