The Sharps Safety Agenda: Acknowledging Past Progress, Working Toward the Future

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Tips for Compliance
All U.S. healthcare facilities are required to comply with the regulations of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (BPS), which aims to protect healthcare personnel at risk of harm from needlestick injuries and other potential transmission routes for infection.  Healthcare facilities should eliminate the risk of needlestick injuries wherever possible - not just comply with minimum standards.

Keeping healthcare personnel safe from needlestick injuries requires teamwork across all levels of an organization, strong awareness regarding safety procedures, vigilance from all staff and a continuous pursuit of accessing the safest, simplest equipment. 

Below are 10 suggestions to help maximize levels of protection provided to healthcare personnel within your facility:
1. Multi-Disciplinary Team Involvement: Healthcare facilities should establish multi-disciplinary leadership teams that include representatives of all occupations identified as being at risk of harm.
2. Equipment Selection Criteria: Not all safety devices are equal. To comply with the BPS, an employer must use engineering and work practice controls that will "eliminate or minimize employee exposure" (Sec. 1910.1030(d)(2)(i)).
 - Passive versus Active: Passive devices remain in effect before, during and after use. Active devices however require the worker to activate the safety mechanism.  Devices with passive safety features are typically preferred for use.
 - Integrated versus Accessory: Integrated devices have built-in safety features.  Accessory safety devices have features that are external to the device and must be carried or affixed fixed to a device; this design is less desirable.
3. Regular Meetings to Review Areas of Risk: Review of areas of risk from needlestick injuries more than just once per year.
4. Record Specific Details of Reported Injuries: Healthcare personnel should be encouraged to report needlestick injuries whenever they occur; detailed records should be maintained of all occupational exposures.
5. Require Proper Training on New Equipment: Healthcare facilities should request on-site training during the evaluation and implementation of new safety equipment.
6. Review Risk for Drug Delivery Systems such as Prefilled Syringes: In addition to hypodermic needles and syringes, drug-device combination products, such as prefilled syringes or procedural kits may represent a risk for occupational exposure within a healthcare facility.
7. Don’t Make Equipment Purchasing Decisions Based Solely on Upfront Cost: Selection must be based on employee feedback and device effectiveness.
8. Seek to Minimize Sharps Disposal Volumes: When selecting safety equipment, take into account the size of a safety device after use, to minimize disposal volumes.
9. Report Adverse Events to the FDA: The Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience can be a beneficial reporting tool for healthcare facilities seeking to improve the safety and simplicity of medical devices.
10. Needlestick injuries represent only one potential transmission mode for infection with bloodborne pathogens. Healthcare facilities should embrace a culture of safety that seeks to minimize the risk of occupational exposure in all areas.
  

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