Non-profit group reminds physicians to stick with needlestick safety

With influenza season fast approaching, vaccine manufacturers are readying their arsenals of toxoids, subunits and attenuates for deployment, eager to beat-out a new round of sickness before it even touches down. Amidst this chaos of yet another upper-arms race, the non-profit organization Safe in Common has decided to make it’s point known to healthcare providers awaiting their precious cargo — with the valor of valences also comes the increasing need for needlestick safety.

According to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates, approximately 5.6 million of the nation’s workers are at risk for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens through sharps-related injuries, adverse occurrences that only increase during prominent vaccination periods. Thus, on Aug.15, the non-profit crusaders for needlestick precautions issued an early reminder to physicians and other vaccine administers about the importance of using syringes with safety features that can prevent providers from needlestick injury.

"The goal for every injection where there is risk of a needlestick injury should be the removal of harm as quickly as possible,” Mary Foley, MD, chairperson of Safe in Common, said in a news release. “All too often, flu vaccinations are given with syringes that are attached with standard luer needles. This is no longer acceptable practice within U.S. healthcare facilities, and we encourage people to speak up when they see syringes without safety features being used.”

And although the federal Bloodborne Pathogens Standard mandates that employers make use of syringes with safety-engineered equipment, some smaller practices haven’t brought their stick up to snuff.

“Many sectors of the healthcare continuum such as acute-care hospitals have done a great job in converting to the use of safety products,” Foley told PhysBizTech. “However, statistics show that physician’s offices and specialty care clinics are not in full compliance with needlestick prevention laws, largely due to perceived cost constraints, a lack of education or inadequate enforcement.”  

While those who fail to comply with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard do face OSHA citations and fines, Foley suggested it was also a violation of personal ethics that should prompt physicians to uphand proper puncture equipment.

“Physicians have a moral imperative when it comes to needlestick safety for patients, staff and visitors,” she said. “Every day, they must make decisions that directly affect the safety culture of their clinic. The best way for them to protect nurses and other healthcare personnel at risk of needlestick injury is to work with their frontline colleagues to evaluate, select and purchase the safest, simplest medical equipment that complies with their routine procedures. The safer the device is to operate and dispose, the safer their employees and patients will be.”

Due to the fact that a majority of flu vaccines arrive in the form of a prefilled or hypodermic syringe, it is up to the physician or office manager to confirm the OSHA integrity of the needle.

“Not all safety devices are created equal. By law, physicians and other healthcare employers are required to use engineering and work practice controls that eliminate occupational exposure for needlestick injuries or reduce it to the lowest feasible extent,” Foley said. “We recommend products that have intuitive steps of use and fully integrated safety features that are activated automatically.”

Despite popular held-beliefs that the cost of these hyper-safe syringes is too steep for benefit, Foley insists the return for both employees and patients is well worth a bigger price tag.

“As a lifelong healthcare environment professional, I know all too well the cost considerations that go into running a medical office. But device selection decisions should never be based on upfront cost. You have to seriously consider the potential costs of not using safest syringes…according to some estimates, needlestick injuries can cost between $3,000 and $3,500 for testing and prophylactic treatment of needlestick injuries. An actual infection with hepatitis C or HIV can cost over $1 million and change the life of that staff member and their family forever. Additionally, staff recovering from an incident may experience emotional trauma or take extended time off work. The few cents more it may cost to purchase a safety product compared to a standard syringe should not be worth a second’s hesitation.”

Needless to say, needles have many more biceps to plunder and veins to infuse before their purpose becomes dull and void. Given this sharp reality, compliance sooner than later can save practices from the hard pokes of unnecessary mishaps.

“Compliance protects the entire environment of care," Foley added. "By providing all staff with the proper devices, training and procedures for removal and disposal, physicians can greatly reduce the risk of needlestick injuries or sharps injuries to the patient, the provider responsible for administering the vaccine and the healthcare worker responsible for disposal of potentially infectious medical waste."

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Law lists the following components for administer care:

  1. Engineering controls, such as safer medical devices, which be used to reduce or eliminate worker exposure.
  2. Involvement of frontline healthcare workers in the selection of safety devices.
  3. Additions to the exposure control plan, such as an annual review and update.
  4. Other control measures, such as administrative, work practice and personal protective equipment.
  5. Enhanced recordkeeping and detail in a sharps injury log

Find more information on Safe in Common’s reminder and pledge here.


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