How do we Fix the Problem of Sharps?

Fixing the Problem

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. They help workers of companies by creating regulations to help reduce the chance of exposure to blood and other infectious materials. Employers need to cooperate and implement exposure control plans for their work site and help their employees understand the measures that they can take to protect themselves while working. Because of this administration, they helped guide employers in setting their regulations.

To help reduce and try to eradicate the hazards of exposure in the workplace to blood borne pathogens, an employer needs to execute an exposure control plan for the work site with details on worker protection procedures. The plan also has to define how an employer has to use a mixture of engineering and work practice controls, make sure workers can use their own fitted fully protected clothing and equipment, provide training, surveillance during medical tasks, vaccinations for hepatitis B, labels and signs to guide workers, and other provisions. Needleless devices, shielded needle devices and tubs made of plastic capillary are options as well nowadays.

sharps basket

Engineering controls are the primary means of eliminating or minimizing employee exposure and include the use of safer medical devices, such as needle less devices, shielded needle devices, and plastic capillary tubes.

Although employers have implemented strategies to try to decrease the risk of needle stick injuries, there is still much more that can be done. Considering that these injuries are often unreported, employers are not as pressured to control the risk. The number of these injuries that occur in healthcare facilities is astounding.

hazardous waste

They account for approximately 70% to 80% of percutaneous injuries in healthcare workers. Needle stick injuries are often caused by hollow-bore needles; these account for 86% of all reported occupational HIV exposures. In the United States, the CDC estimates that healthcare workers in hospitals sustain approxima  tely 384,325 percutaneous injuries annually from contaminated sharps (Brown, Shapiro).

To help counteract this, healthcare facilities have started to try and make infusion devices that are safer to try and stop these injuries from occurring. EPINet looks at this data overtime and reports that in 1999, 21 facilities reported 2025 percutaneous injuries. In 2001, 58 facilities reported a lower number of percutaneous injuries. (EPINet, Brown, Shapiro).

According to Shapiro and Brown, this decline is attributed to “safe needle” devices being used more often and needless systems. Although these safety devices help decrease the number of injuries, they are still not being used correctly by healthcare providers and their patients as well as their family. Due to this, education and training needs to be increased in order to be sure that these devices reap the largest benefit and allow patients to get a hold of their prescribed treatment.

Lately, people are starting to understand the problems that needles can cause, especially those that are infected. To be able to counter this, more regulations need to be set as well as employers being able to more properly protect their employees. There have been too many cases where a worker has been stuck with a needle or some other form of sharp, and there was more that they could have done to protect themselves from the injury. It is the employer’s job to make sure that the workers are trained correctly and know how to treat their work to keep themselves safe from a possible sharp injury. There must be stricter enforcement of making sure the employees follow the rules. If the government also steps in to enforce damaging penalties for companies that do not do all that they can to protect their employees, there is a strong chance that the amount of sharps related injuries will decrease dramatically.

sharps waste

Along with the employers protecting their employees, those who dispose of sharps must be accounted for as well. There could be more programs set in place so that each person who has sharps in their possession is accounted for. If this is regulated, and people who have sharps know that they must dispose of them properly or face a penalty, this could greatly increase the safety of people everywhere and decrease the amount of victims to sharps injuries to a minimal value.

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