How to Reduce Sharps Injuries

OHS Health Care IndustryPreventing sharps injury is one of the most important OHS issues for health care workers today. There is much more that can be done to protect nurses and doctors from sharps injuries like needlesticks, blade accidents and glass amphoule cuts.

According to the International Sharps Injury Prevention Society sharps injuries can be reduced by up to 65% if best practice is adopted.

Here are some tips from the experts on what can be done to dramatically reduce preventable sharps injury.

In terms of sharps injuries, scalpel blade accidents are among the main offenders, second only to needlesticks. No matter how careful clinicians are, the scalpel has razor-sharp blades attached to often slippery handles: a recipe for severe damage when handled incorrectly.

The majority of scalpel injuries occur when the scalpel is being passed by hand, during blade removal or while being disposed. There are certain strategies to reduce these preventable injuries.

Firstly, a no-hands passing protocol has been proven to significantly reduce both blade and needle injury. The use of trays or passive passing techniques can reduce injuries by as much as 65%. Some surgical suites use a generic instrument tray, others use magnetic mats or pads. The important outcome is to avoid hand to hand passing of sharp instruments, especially in the situations where eyes are focused on the surgical site.

The next tip is to create a no-passing zone where no hand to hand contact is allowed. Instruments are laid down by one team member and picked up by another. It is surprisingly easy to enforce and quickly becomes usual behaviour.

Another way to reduce sharps injury is to invest in the range of safe disposal products available today. Combining safe practices with safety products is a proven line of defence against injury.

The use of a scalpel blade remover for example is an effective method for significantly reducing injuries. The old method of removing conventional scalpel blades with forceps or by hand is both unnecessary and arcane. The best results come from use of a mechanical device or a one-handed technique using one of the many blade removal products currently available.

One of the most respected and innovative companies producing safety blade removal and needle management devices is run out of Brisbane by Michael Sinnott, himself a respected emergency medicine clinician. Michaels company Qlicksmart has a small range of these safety products that are now being sold around the world. You can have a look at the range by going to their website at

Of course the most common sharps injury is caused by needles. We found the Check Clip marketed by Qlicksmart is an inexpensive, disposable plastic clip. The device directly attaches to almost all sizes of plastic and glass drug ampoules (1-10ml) and to all types of disposable syringes. By using a Check Clip, the possibility of ADEs and ‘sharps’ injuries to staff from open glass ampoules is reduced. It is particularly useful in cases where multiple drug doses are required or in an emergency where there is confusion, chaos and a need for immediate action.

The obligation for any health care employer is to participate in the identification, evaluation and implementation of safety products that work to reduce sharps injury in the workplace. Knowing that there are both products available and techniques that work means the employer has tools available to reduce and even eliminate preventable sharps injury.

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About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

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