Clinical TopicsPatient SafetyResourcesSpecial Report - SupplementWorkplace Management

To reduce sharps injuries, all of us must create a culture of safety in our workplaces


In the 12 years since passage of the federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA), much progress has been made to reduce the risk of healthcare worker exposure to bloodborne pathogens. But significant challenges remain. Injuries from contaminated needles and other sharps that can transmit infectious diseases are preventable and shouldn’t be tolerated as a cost of doing business by healthcare organizations charged with ensuring safety and preventing harm—to patients, employees, and the public.

We know compliance with NSPA isn’t universal and work remains to help ensure that preventable sharps injuries don’t occur. It’s up to all of us to create the culture of safety necessary to minimize incidents. “All of us” includes government enforcers, health advocates, safety engineers, and hospital personnel—from executives to educators to nurses to housekeepers. That safety culture must be proactive and place a priority on prevention, workers’ health, education, and training.

In ANA’s 2011 Health and Safety Survey, 96%
of nurse respondents indicated that their facilities provide safe needle devices; this represents a significant improvement from 82% in 2001. Of the nurses who said their facilities provide safety needles, 76% said they use them frequently; that’s not enough. What’s more, among nurses who said safety needles were available at work, 19% stated that nurses weren’t involved in the selection process while 43% didn’t know if nurses were involved. NSPA requires employers to give direct-care nurses a say in needle selection and evaluation. It’s critical for nurses to exercise these rights, because involvement in this process allows nurses to select products they’re more likely to use and, as a result, can reduce the number of injuries.

It’s time for all of us to recommit to sharps safety and put it high on our priority list. This American Nurse Today supplement highlights this recommitment through the recent Consensus Statement and Call to Action, a collaboration of ANA, the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia, and many colleagues across the healthcare spectrum.

The goal of the Consensus Statement is to continue progress in reducing the risk of sharps injuries to healthcare workers. The Call to Action focuses on five pivotal areas in need of attention:

  1. improving sharps safety in surgical settings
  2. understanding and reducing exposure risks in
  3. nonhospital settings (such as physicians’ offices, clinics, and home settings)
  4. involving frontline workers in the selection of safety devices
  5. addressing gaps in available safety devices and encouraging innovative designs and technology
  6. enhancing worker education and training.

Besides being the right thing to do, creating and maintaining a culture of safety that minimizes occupational health risks goes a long way toward increasing job satisfaction, which in turn reduces staff turnover. Engaging frontline healthcare workers is a priority in any effort to create a culture of safety—not just for sharps safety but for the general health, safety, and wellness of all healthcare employees, patients, and the public.

Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
President, American Nurses Association


To read another article from this supplement, Moving the Sharps Safety Agenda Forward, please click below:

Essential elements of a comprehensive sharps injury-prevention program

Reducing sharps injuries in nonhospital settings

Practical strategies to prevent surgical sharps injuries

Moving the Sharps Safety Agenda Forward:
Consensus Statement and Call to Action

Choosing wisely:
Resources for selecting sharps safety devices

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