The dangers of needlesticks and sharps injuries cannot be understated. Healthcare workers around the globe have long had the potential for injury due to the transmission of hazardous and often deadly diseases from bloodborne pathogens due to sharps. Sharps are any item that can pierce the skin that has been potentially contaminated with a bloodborne pathogen. Such injuries can include infection with HBV (hepatitis B), HCV (hepatitis C), HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and others. WHO (World Health Organization) reports that there are global reports of sharps injuries each year of around 66,000 HBV, 16,000 HCV, and 5,000 HIV. Protecting against and preventing needlesticks and sharps injuries is a priority to maintain the safety of healthcare works so that they don’t have serious long-term illnesses, disabilities, and death.
In November 2010, the U.S. passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (PL 106-430) that required an amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to include more actions for the protection of workers for the prevention of occupational exposures to body fluids and blood. The passing of NSPA made great strides in establishing changes within the healthcare industry that led to the reduction of needlestick and sharps injuries as well as advances in technologies that replaced dangerous sharps with alternative treatments and therapies. The NSPA law included:
The NSPA launched a more focused attitude in protecting healthcare workers against exposure to the transmission of dangerous and deadly diseases from bloodborne and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Healthcare facilities now incorporate the use of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as part of their standard procedures including face masks, shields, gloves, outerwear, and respirators.
Attention to needlesticks and sharps injuries and the healthcare workers that they could harm brought about new ideas for ways to potentially eliminate some of the conditions where needles or sharps are used. New therapies are now available for clinical options that a healthcare facility can use that can include therapeutic patches, adhesives, nasal delivery vaccines, and zipper closures.
The development of FDA-cleared sharps containers such as those supplied by Healthcare Waste Management are next generation technology offering multiple levels so that the sharp end of an object is placed and segregated in an upper level and a roll lever or lid that drops the sharp into the container. An additional feature for protection includes specially designed lids that prevent any easy removal of the sharps and well-marked areas to show the 2/3 fill rule to avoid overfilling and accidents.
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