Infection Control Today - 05/2002: Sharps Safety

Infection Control Today magazines virtual roundtable on sharps safety

Safety 1st
1740 E. Garry Ave., Suite 109
Santa Ana, Calif. 92705
(949) 476-5555
Fax (949) 476-5559
(800) 99SAFE1

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?

Safety 1st: Its too early to tell. When the legislation was passed very few facilities switched over to safety devices immediately, and some facilities brought in any safety device to try and become compliant. Many high risk areas (surgery, ER, etc) are continuing to evaluate different safety devices, due to dissatisfaction with the safety devices originally chosen. There have been too many extentions of the mandated compliance date.

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

Safety 1st: Management must work more closely with the frontline personnel and not force a product on them. Ensure that every department in the hospital, evaluates safety devices on their own, and make sure that every department is aware of the latest technology prior to the selection of a device for evaluation. Many departments in facilities are resisting using safety devices. Some is this is due to habits, and some is due to lack of concern. Additionally, the safety devices originally chosen do not meet their departments particular needs or a safety device was chosen for them without their input.

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

Safety 1st: Safety 1st® Medical conducts focus groups with nurses and other clinicians, to gather their input into product designs. When clinicians are involved in the product design they stress the features that they need in a safety device. Thus, the final product is one that the nurse/clinicians will readily use. If a facility has a safety device that the users dont understand, or it doesnt work in their particular department, occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens will continue to be a serious problem..

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

Safety 1st: The best education is in-servicing of the users, in small groups. All the features and benefits can be reviewed, and questions can be answered. Constant follow-up by manufacturers reps is very important, to continue training and to in-service newly hired personnel. Instruction Sheets posted in the nurses lounge and at the nurses stations are also very important. Safety 1st® Medical also supplying training videos for the facilitys library. This allows for on-going product review.

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

Safety 1st: The most important feature is that the device must be one-handed. That means that the user must be able to activate the safety feature with the same hand used for the procedure. This allows the user to maintain patient control, which is very important. Additionally, the device must be able to adapt to other ancillary items, already in place in the facility. With a safety syringe, for example, a user might want to change needles, attach filter needles, or filter straws, IV lines, etc.

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

Safety 1st: First of all, its the law! Penalties for non-compliance can be as high as $7,000 for first offenses. The high cost of liability and litigation in not providing protection to all healthcare workers could increase costs substantially higher than the added cost of Sharps protective devices. Facilities should be prepared to change their buying habits, and work with manufacturers for cost-saving solutions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation mandates that sharps protective devices should be chosen regardless of pre-existing contracts. By looking outside of existing contracts there could be ways of eliminating duplicate sharps items, or reducing the number of SKUs, which could lead to cost-savings.

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