Written by Anne Carrie
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are nearly 385,000 sharps-related injuries that occur annually in the US healthcare industry, which is an average of 1,000 per day. A sharps injury is penetrating stab wound from a needle, scalpel, or another sharp object that may result in exposure to blood or body fluids.
More than 20 bloodborne pathogens have been reportedly transmitted from these types of injuries. Some may lead to severe and fatal infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In fact, about 2 percent of needlestick injuries are likely to be contaminated with (HIV).
Most sharps-related injuries involve nurses, physicians, laboratory staff, and other healthcare workers. They are typically a result of fatigue, using improper procedures, dangerous equipment, limited staff experience, and stressful work conditions in a fast-paced environment. Injuries can occur when employees dispose of needles, collect materials used in medical procedures, draw blood, or handle trash or dirty linens.
The projected medical and work productivity costs from sharps-related injuries are estimated to be $188.5 million per year in the US. With direct costs ranging from $500 to $5,000 per injury depending on the treatment provided. It’s hard to project the actual total costs because nearly 50% of all injuries go unreported. However, sharps injuries clearly have a significant economic impact on the healthcare industry. According to the American Hospital Association, one case of severe infection by bloodborne pathogens can add up to $1 million or more in expenditures for testing, follow-up, lost time and disability payments. The costs that are harder to quantify include stress from injury, emotional cost from fear and anxiety of contracting a communicable disease or infection, lost time from work, expenses from laboratory testing, medical treatment, and the cost of any litigation.
There are standardized guidelines following a sharps injury that healthcare workers should use for post-exposure prevention, including antiviral medications for individuals exposed to HIV and hepatitis B or C virus. Below is a list of steps recommended by the CDC that should be followed after a sharps injury.
Steps to take following a needlestick:
If you experienced a sharps injury during your work, immediately follow these steps:
What can employers and employees do to prevent injury in the workplace?