Too many sharps injuries from punctured containers – why?

“Finer needles, higher temps, and thinner walls, all make container penetration easier.”

500 healthcare professionals in USA and 200 in UK sustain sharps injuries (SI) from needles puncturing containers each year. Not high numbers but they CAN be markedly reduced with tougher sharps containers (and tougher Standards)?

In my recent paper, I researched this question by examining 3 parameters affecting needle penetration – needle gauge, temperature, and container wall thickness.

Under controlled standard conditions I conducted 288 tests comparing 6 needle gauges (21G – 30G), 3 temperatures (130C, 230C, 430C) and 3 wall thicknesses (1.9mm, 2.4mm, 2.8mm).

Would 30G penetrate more easily than 21G? Many say 21G …but the answer is 30G – by far. A 30G needle penetrates a wall at 1/3rd the force needed for 21G! At 430C it is 1/7th.

So… finer needles, higher temps, and thinner walls are why sharps injuries from container-penetration are occurring – ‘container abuse’ is rare.

46% of U.S. needles are finer than 21G (31% in UK) so it is surprising Standards still use 21G to test containers. And USA Standard F2132 still uses a low 12.5N as the Pass for “force necessary to penetrate”. However, Canada’s healthcare workers lobbied successfully to raise their Standard’s requirement for wall toughness to 20N – 60% higher than older Standards. Go Canada!

True, tougher containers cost more. So too do needle safety devices. If we pay more for safety devices, then we need pay more for safer, tougher containers. There’s always a cost for safety.

In our quest for zero Sharps Injuries, needles penetrating through sharps containers is one cause of injury we can readily eliminate.