Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Sharps Safety

May 1, 2002

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.