Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Sharps Safety

Infection Control Today magazines virtual roundtable on sharps safety

Portex, Inc.
10 Bowman Dr.
Keene, N.H. 03431
(800) 258-5361
www.simsportex.com

Infection Control Today: While the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 helped raise awareness of sharps injuries among healthcare workers, do you think this legislation had a quantifiable impact on reducing incidences overall?

Portex: Awareness is essential to reducing needlestick injuries. With increased awareness, clinicians are more careful in their procedures, and are therefore safer. One of the key requirements of the legislation requires an institution to keep a Sharps Injury log to track incidences. This focuses awareness on the rate of injuries in that particular institution, resulting in initiatives to reduce them through safer work practices and the use of safety devices. By requiring institutions to evaluate and implement safety devices, incidences are reduced. We have seen this through data gathered during our clinical evaluations, and from data submitted to us through our Sharps Safety Ideas Initiative. This initiative recognizes and rewards healthcare workers who have implemented ideas and programs that have improved sharps safety. Entries have focused on quantitatively how much education, and implementation of safety devices have reduced the rate of needlestick injuries in their institutions.

Infection Control Today: What can be done in hospitals to realistically safeguard healthcare workers from sharps injuries?

Portex: Hospitals can do a lot to safeguard healthcare workers with their own current resources. This includes increasing the awareness of the risks through employee education programs (newsletters, videos, posters). Evaluating current policies regarding at risk procedures and changing them if needed, will make the work environment safer for employees. Keeping an accurate sharps injuries log, and encouraging employees to report injuries, will also increase awareness and result in safer work environments. Once the basics of education, increased awareness, and institutional policies are taken care of, the next step is the evaluation and implementation of safer devices. This can be a lengthy process, but once completed, will ensure workers are safer if the devices are used correctly.

Infection Control Today: As a manufacturer, how are you able to better engineer sharps to help mitigate or eradicate the possibility of occupational exposure?

Portex: By providing safety devices that meet the NIOSH/CDC recommended characteristics for safety devices:

1. The safety features is an integral part of the device (ESIP)

2. The safety feature can be engaged with a single-handed technique

3. The clinicians hands always remain behind the exposed sharp

4. The user can easily tell whether the safety feature is activated

5. The safety feature cannot be deactivated and remains protective through disposal.

Infection Control Today: The most effectively designed sharps safety device wont do its job unless healthcare workers know how to use it properly. What kind of staff education and training would you advocate?

Portex: The safety device should be intuitive, requiring little or no inservice training. If an institution can find an acceptable safety device with a consistent technology and universal design throughout the entire product line, such as that found in the PortexÒ Needle-ProÒ device, wherever it is used in the facility, its operation is consistent and understood. A user should never have to pick up a safety device and not intuitively know how to use it. At Portex, we have committed resources to provide ready and ongoing access to inservicing resources throughout device evaluation and implementation.

Infection Control Today: What should a healthcare worker look for when evaluating a sharps safety device for use?

Portex: Sharps safety devices should meet the NIOSH/CDC recommended characteristics:

1. The safety features is an integral part of the device (ESIP)

2. The safety feature can be engaged with a single-handed technique

3. The clinicians hands always remain behind the exposed sharp

4. The user can easily tell whether the safety feature is activated

5. The safety feature cannot be deactivated and remains protective through disposal.

Safety devices should also be cost effective, easy to use and safe!

Infection Control Today: What would you say to the hospital administrator who balks at the cost of exchanging conventional sharps for protective devices?

Portex: There is no question that implementing safety results in additional cost for an institution, however, they are required by Federal legislation- there is no other option. Safety devices are the right solution for patients and healthcare workers. Education, increasing awareness, updating hospital policies can only do so much to insure safety. The cost of not providing healthcare workers with safety devices is startling. This includes both the costs of treating a needlestick injury, fines instituted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for legislation violations, as well as potential litigation from injured workers. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), one case of serious infection by bloodborne pathogens can add up to $1 million or more. The cost of follow-up for high-risk exposure is almost $3,000 per needlestick even when no infection occurs. Fines imposed by OSHA can be compounded, depending on the scope and severity of the violation. Currently, it is a financial risk for any institution not to utilize safety devices.

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