Needle stick injuries can be avoided by eliminating the unnecessary use of needles, using devices with safety features, and promoting education and safe work practices for handling needles and related systems. These measures should be part of a comprehensive program to prevent the transmission of blood borne pathogens. Specifically:
Needle stick injuries can best be reduced when the use of improved engineering controls is incorporated into a comprehensive program involving workers. Employers should implement the following program elements:
- Eliminate the use of needles where safe and effective alternatives are available.
- Implement the use of devices with safety features and evaluate their use to determine which are most effective and acceptable.
- Analyze needle stick and other sharps-related injuries in your workplace to identify hazards and injury trends.
- Set priorities and strategies for prevention by examining local and national information about risk factors for needle stick injuries and successful intervention efforts.
- Ensure that health care workers are properly trained in the safe use and disposal of needles.
- Modify work practices that pose a needle stick injury hazard to make them safer.
- Promote safety awareness in the work environment.
- Establish procedures for and encourage the reporting and timely follow-up of all needle stick and other sharps-related injuries.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of prevention efforts and provide feedback on performance.
Health care workers
The number of needle stick injuries can be reduced by health care workers taking the following steps to protect themselves and their fellow workers:
- Avoid the use of needles where safe and effective alternatives are available.
- Help your employer select and evaluate devices with safety features.
- Use devices with safety features provided by your employer.
- Avoid recapping needles.
- Plan for safe handling and disposal before beginning any procedure using needles.
- Dispose of used needles promptly in appropriate sharps disposal containers.
- Report all needle stick and other sharps-related injuries promptly to ensure that you receive appropriate follow-up care.
- Tell your employer about hazards from needles that you observe in your work environment.
- Participate in blood borne pathogen training and follow recommended infection prevention practice, including hepatitis B vaccination.
Fines & Costs
If a healthcare facility is cited for noncompliance, OSHA will impose a fine of up to $7,000 for each citation and a “willful” violation can lead to fines as high as $70,000.
Safety-engineered devices are never too costly when compared to non-safety devices. Before passing the Needlestick Act, OSHA conducted an industry-wide cost/benefit analysis. The concludsion of the analysis was that the use of safety medical devices was beneficial. Expenses associated with testing and treating injured healthcare workers was reduced. For example, workup and prophylaxis of a high-risk exposure to HIV can cost as much as $3,500. Moreover, $500,000 to $1,000,000 may be spent to treat a worker who contracts Hepatitis C or HIV.
Resource for more information about needle stick prevention and safety
1. The NIOSH alert about preventing needle stick injuries in health care settings.