Sharps Safety: Recommendations for Progress

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ANA has joined 18 other nursing and health care organizations to issue a statement to protect health care workers from infectious diseases resulting from needlestick injuries.

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act have improved safety. However, RNs still are sustaining preventable sharps injuries too frequently, especially in surgical settings.

Moving the Sharps Safety Agenda Forward in the United States: Consensus Statement and Call to Action provides recommendations in five key areas to reduce the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

The recommendations call upon health care employers and workers, professional organizations, federal agencies, manufacturers and educational institutions to work together to ensure that the safest devices are available, safety policies are implemented, personnel is educated, and laws and regulations are enforced. Those recommendations are summarized here. For more background and a full description of the recommendations, read the Statement.

Recommendations for Progress on Sharps Safety

  1. Improving Sharps Safety in Surgical Settings
       Adopt site-specific sharps safety policy for the operating room.
       Health care workers in surgical settings collaborate to develop and implement sharps safety standards
         and practices.
       Professional groups and manufacturers encourage the use of blunt suture needles where appropriate.
       Increase Bloodborne Pathogens Standard compliance in surgical settings.
  2. Understanding and Reducing Exposure Risks in Non-Hospital Settings
       Support epidemiological research that evaluates risks to workers.
       Increase OSHA focus on enforcement of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard in non-hospital settings.
       Ensure sharps safety is a priority and appropriate devices and educational and training materials are
  3. Involving Frontline Health Care Workers in the Selection of Safety Devices
       Professional organizations educate their members about the Needlestick Act's provisions.
       Employers consistently involve frontline workers in the selection of devices, as required by regulation.
       Conduct research to assess whether and to what extent health care workers are being included in the
         device selection process.
  4. Addressing Gaps in Safety Devices: The Need for Continued Innovation
       Assess and prioritize device needs for specific clinical applications, monitor progress in closing existing
         gaps, and identify future needs.
       Develop suture and scalpel safety designs that both reduce risk and are comfortable and intuitive for
         surgeons' use.
  5. Enhancing Education and Training
       Develop standardized curricula on bloodborne pathogen exposure prevention and the selection and use
         of safety-engineered devices.
       Employers provide annual instruction to all workers at risk of sharps injuries on the appropriate use and
         disposal of safety devices.
       Develop training strategies for the introduction of new devices, so frontline workers understand proper
         use and disposal.