Health care workers have been through the wringer these past few years, and it feels like there’s no end in sight. When people are overwhelmed, exhausted, and discouraged, compliance with safety standards can slip. Now is a good time for a reminder of these three tips for preventing needle sticks and sharps injuries.
Use Approved Sharps Disposal Containers
Among health care workers, nurses are at particularly high risk for sharps injuries and needle sticks. It’s critically important that the health care facility provides proper sharps disposal receptacles. All non-medical staff, including cleaning, transport, and food service staff, must be trained to safely avoid or dispose of needles when they come across them.
Nurses, lab technicians, and other staff who administer IVs or draw blood need to have sharps disposal containers within reach—no one should have to cross a room to safely dispose of a used needle. Staff should never recap a used needle but rather dispose of it in an approved sharps container immediately.
Standard medical lab equipment should include proper biohazard disposal supplies, including hard plastic sharps disposal bins.
Use Sharps With Engineered Safety Features
Needles for administering vaccinations and drawing blood may be available with safety features. Some needles are self-sheathing, and others are retractable. Even with these features, used needles must still be deposited in approved sharps disposal bins made of rigid plastic. These receptacles should have maximum fill indicators on them to signal when to dispose of the bin and replace it.
Don’t Pass Sharps From Person To Person
When it’s necessary to hand off a needle or other sharps from person to person, follow a protocol that involves passing the sharps on a tray to be picked up by another sterile instrument, rather than a hand-to-hand exchange.
Education may be the best way to prevent needle sticks and sharps injuries. All staff in health care facilities must be trained in ways to avoid needle sticks, and they must know what to do if they suffer a needle stick or sharp instrument injury.