Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Sharps Safety

Infection Control Today magazines virtual roundtable on sharps safety

Becton Dickinson
1 Becton Drive
Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417
(201) 847.6800
www.bd.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?

Becton Dickinson: It is too early to evaluate the full impact that safety-engineered devices will eventually play in keeping healthcare workers safer from exposure to hazardous bloodborne pathogens. We do know from clinical studies conducted in the past that the use of safety-engineered devices over time significantly reduces the number of sharps injuries sustained by healthcare workers. The passing of this important federal law has served to promote these findings and compel safer practices including 1) documentation in an exposure control plan that safer needle devices are being evaluated and implemented; 2) the inclusion of non-managerial frontline workers in choosing safer devices and 3) the requirement that all facilities establish and maintain a sharps injury log.

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

Becton Dickinson: BD has created a simple five-step plan to assist healthcare facilities to comply to the new legislation and to help reduce sharps related injuries:

Step 1: Understand Before any safety actions within a facility can occur, it is important for healthcare workers to understand the new government actions. A multi-disciplinary team should be established to research and gather the necessary information. This team can assume responsibility for guiding and directing the overall safety initiatives.

Step 2: Assess In this step an institution should asses current sharps safety policies and practices relative to the government regulations and identify gaps to compliance. Based on this self-assessment, priorities for enacting safety measures may be established.

Step 3: Review After identifying areas for improvement, the facility should explore and evaluate potential solutions, including the range of commercially available safety-engineered medical devices to meet that facility's needs.

Step 4: Implement Once the first three steps are completed, the new process and products can be put into place. In order to best facilitate implementation, healthcare workers should be trained in the correct usage of devices, and criteria should be established to ensure both quality patient care and healthcare worker safety.

Step 5: Measure To ensure success and to promote continuous improvement, steps should be taken to measure the program's results. The program may be evaluated by monitoring the use of the new devices, soliciting feedback from healthcare workers and determining if additional training might be necessary.

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

Becton Dickinson: BD is committed to healthcare worker safety and continually acts to improve current technology in response to customer needs. BD also holds the most patents among medical device manufacturers today and has spent approximately 500 million dollars in research and development and to increase production of our safety-engineered devices.

Infection Control Today: The most effectively designed sharps safety device won't do its job unless healthcare workers know how to use it properly. What kind of staff education and training would you advocate?

Becton Dickinson: The Needlestick Safety and Prevention ACT and the updated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Standard require not only work practice controls, but a training program to be implemented as well. While BD has made every effort to develop and introduce safety-engineered devices to minimize any change in technique for the user, it is important for a healthcare worker to be adequately trained on the use of any new safety device. BD, again, is committed to making the transition to safety an easier one for our customers and we offer on-going inservice training to hospital staff members going through the process of implementing our safety products. BD sales representatives are trained and ready to assist in the proper use and activation of our devices and to supply the necessary training support literature and materials.

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

Becton Dickinson: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a list of useful criteria for the evaluation of safety devices. The criteria was developed by a number of sources including OSHA, the FDA, Janine Jagger of the Health Care Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia, and other opinion leaders. These characteristics were compiled and published in the NIOSH Alert titled, Preventing Needlestick Injuries in Health care Settings. Ultimately, each facility needs to determine what will be most effective in reducing accidental needlesticks in their individual situation.

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

Becton Dickinson: The cost of a single needlestick injury sustained by a healthcare employee can be far greater than implementing safety-engineered devices system-wide.

According to the American Hospital Association, one case of serious infection by bloodborne pathogens can soon add up to $1 million dollars or more in expenditures for testing follow-up, lost time and disability payments. And, the cost of follow-up for a high risk exposure is almost $3,000 per needlestick injury even when no infection occurs.

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