Safety Tips Injury prevention Workplace exposure

Prevent needlestick and sharps injuries

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Photo: Remains/iStockphoto

Needlestick and sharps injuries occur when needles or other sharp objects inadvertently puncture a person’s skin, and can happen “when people use, disassemble or dispose of needles,” according to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety.

A worker also can incur a sharps injury from scalpels, razor blades, scissors, metal wire and any other object that can pierce the skin.

Needlestick injuries most often occur in the health care industry, but other industries experience these events as well. According to a recent report from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America, an estimated 781 to 1,484 needlestick-related injuries are reported annually at solid waste and recycling material recovery facilities.

Needlestick and sharps injuries can result in the transmission of infectious diseases, CCOHS notes, particularly bloodborne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, among others.

Controls and procedures

Injury prevention programs are the most effective way to protect workers, CCOHS states. Workers should be educated on “how to protect themselves during use, and to protect others who may encounter the device during or after procedures.” Additionally, workplaces should follow a Hierarchy of Controls procedure regarding needlestick and sharps incidents:
Elimination: Find ways to eliminate or reduce the use of needles and sharps.
Engineering controls: Use sharps disposal containers or other similar devices to isolate or remove the hazard.
Work-practice controls: Take steps to reduce sharps and needlestick injuries by using instruments to hold needles or scalpels, refrain from passing sharps by hand, and do not carry sharps in garbage or linen bags held close to the body.
Personal protective equipment: Using PPE should always be the last control approach taken.

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