Approximately 50 percent of needle or sharps-related injuries go unreported in the healthcare profession, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Reporting of all incidents is critical. That’s because of the potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Cal/OSHA standards require all employers to keep and maintain a sharps injury log.

Employees must know the procedures for reporting and treating needlestick and sharps injuries in the workplace. Follow these steps after any such incident:

  • Immediately following the injury, wash with soap and water.
  • Don’t use antiseptics, squeeze the wound to make blood flow, or use a caustic agent such as bleach to clean the area.
    • No conclusive evidence shows these methods prevent disease.
    • Additional injuries could actually occur.
  • Get appropriate and immediate follow-up medical care.

Despite the fast-paced nature of the work environment, the perceived risk of transmission, and the procedures for documenting and taking blood samples for analysis, prompt reporting is imperative.

Injury Prevention

Equally important to reporting injuries, is preventing them. Proper training on safe handling and disposal is essential. These procedures include:

  • Prohibiting shearing or breaking contaminated needles or sharps.
  • Prohibiting bending, recapping, or dismantling safety devices on contaminated sharps.
  • Requiring disposal of all used sharps in specially designed sharps containers.

Other handling rules to reinforce with employees include:

  • Handle sharps as little as possible.
  • Never handle sharps with your bare hands.
  • Never reach your hands into a trash or recycling container to retrieve items or tamp down the contents.
  • Never place your hand into spaces where you can’t see them (to perform searches, etc.).
  • Never reach by hand into sharps containers.
  • Never re-open, empty, or manually clean sharps containers.
  • Don’t re-use disposable sharps.
  • Never pick up broken glassware and other sharps by hand. Use tools such as a brush, dustpan, tongs, or forceps.

Proper reporting and prevention techniques go a long way in preventing injuries and exposure to serious disease.