EXPOSURE SAFETY: Sharps safety update: “Are we there yet?”

June 2005 
Volume 35  Number 6
Pages 17 - 17
  PDF Version Available!


  • Declining sharps injury rates

  • Safety devices: Continued innovation

  • International leader in sharps safety



    MORE THAN 4 YEARS have passed since the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act became law. The revised Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), emphasizes using safety-engineered devices to reduce health care workers' risk of needle-stick injuries. Here, we'll update you on recent progress and highlight areas that need improvement.

    Declining sharps injury rates

    Data on sharps injury rates are limited but encouraging. A multihospital comparison of percutaneous injury (PI) rates for nurses showed a 51% decrease from 1993 to 2001. Analyzed by device category, PI rates decreased substantially for the three hollow-bore needle devices with the highest risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission:

    * phlebotomy needles, 70% decrease

    * I.V. catheters, 55% decrease

    * butterfly needles, 55% decrease.

    Among devices analyzed, only suture needles failed to show a major decline in PI rates (5% decrease).

    At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y., researchers compared PI data from 1998 to 2000, before safety devices were implemented hospital-wide, with data from 2001 to 2002, after a near-total conversion to safety devices. The overall PI rate decreased by more than 50%, with injuries from hollow-bore needles falling by 71%. The drop was greatest among nurses (75%).

    Survey results published in Nursing2004 (“Needle-Stick and Sharps-Safety Survey: Getting to the Point about Preventable Injuries,” April 2004) were also encouraging. Of respondents who reported using safety devices frequently or all the time, only 21% said they sustained one or more sharps ...

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