Needlestick and sharp injuries are two kinds of injuries that could be potentially dangerous to nurses and other health care professionals. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, needlestick and sharps injuries could result in people coming into contact with contaminated needles, broken glass, scalpels and pathogens that put them at risk.
Health care workers may be at risk of needlestick or sharp injuries when they:
- Don’t have a proper workstation for sharps procedures
- Work too quickly
- Bump into a sharp or needle while another worker is using one
- Dispose of needles that are attached to tubing
- Have to recap a needle
- Don’t transfer or dispose of needles in puncture-resistant containers
These are all issues that could result in serious injuries and exposure to dangerous pathogens.
What are employers expected to do to minimize the risks caused by needles and sharps?
To help prevent this from happening, employers have a few responsibilities. They need to:
- Have a bloodborne pathogen control program
- Provide post-exposure medical evaluation
- Investigate injuries related to sharps
- Provide needle devices that have safety features as well
- Eliminate the use of needles or sharps when other alternatives are available
Employers may also need to provide containers for sharps or needles to those traveling for business.
What do you do if you’re injured by a needle or sharp?
Before working with these items, your employer should have discussed how to deal with exposure to pathogens. For example, if you are stick with a needle after giving a shot to a patient with HIV, there should be specific post-exposure requirements set up for you.
Let your employer know about the pathogen exposure immediately, because medical intervention may be needed quickly. Then, wash the needlestick or injury with soap and water to flush the space. If there is a particular solution that you are supposed to use after exposure, use it as soon as you can. Then, seek immediate medical treatment to go through your post-exposure medical evaluation. This should be covered under your workers’ compensation policy, even if you have to go outside your place of employment to seek treatment.