Preventing sharps injuries

Revitalized committee looks at products, protocols to improve safety around needles and other sharps

The CDC estimates that across the country more than 1,000 hospital staff are injured each day with some kind of needle or other sharp instrument or device. In Massachusetts, all sharps injuries are reported to the Department of Public Health and at HHS that reporting is done by Occupational Health staff.

While HHS is doing well in keeping the rate of sharps injuries down, a newly revitalized sharps committee wants to do even better. Committee members represent key areas and staff involved in purchasing, using, cleaning, and disposing of sharps – central supply, purchasing and facilities; nurses, physicians, phlebotomists; and outpatient physician practices.

“Our primary mission is to study trends in sharps injuries and to evaluate products and procedures used throughout HHS that relate to sharps safety, recommending changes as needed,” said Pat Conway, RN, practice coordinator of Employee Health and Infection Prevention.

Safety scalpels used in the operating rooms are one class of product under discussion and trial. Each trial enables staff input on the pros and cons of the product before a final decision is made. “We also evaluated a recent needlestick trend for the slide-up-and-lock type of insulin needle,” said Conway. The vendor was notified and staff reeducated on proper use of the safety feature, which led to an immediate reduction in needlesticks.

Although the committee has only been working for a few months, “we are committed to reducing the risk of employees incurring sharps injuries by identifying and implementing safe alternatives wherever we can,” said Conway.


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