Sharps safety devices – why is Australian use lower than USA?

Australian hospitals use less sharps safety devices than USA

Sharps injuries (SI) among Australian healthcare professionals (HCP) are three times that of USA.

The best way to reduce SI is to use safety engineered devices (SED). All Australian hospitals use SED – but to what extent?

To ascertain SED extent, you need to “dumpster dive” – you need look at sharps container contents. If Australian HCP are using less SED  it could be a contributing factor in the higher SI rate.

In my survey published online last week in Healthcare infection I examined the contents of 102 sharps containers from 27 hospitals in 5 Australian capital cities and found 30% of the 10,000 hollow-bore needles were SED.  A similar but smaller sampling in the U.S. revealed that 46% were SED.

The paper concludes a high proportion of Australian HCP are unnecessarily at risk of SI while handling sharps. Recommendations include more widespread SED evaluation and adoption (automatic and semi-automatic SED where feasible), repetitive competency training and safety-ownership. Legislation may be indicated.

Click here for access to Abstract and Author copy for this study

Survey reveals USA sharps injury prevention is not meeting goals

This is my first blog so please forgive any ineptness – I felt I should quickly get the word out to as many as I could. My recent national survey with my colleague Linda Good estimated that 322,000 US healthcare personnel (HCP) sustain sharps Injuries (SI) each year – but that disturbing news is compounded by the fact that our results show there has been no significant decrease in this figure since 2001. And this is in a developed country that has enacted sharps injury specific laws (NSPA 2001) – think of the plight of HCP in developing countries with scarce resources for safety devices.

Sharps injuries (penetrating injuries of the skin by a cutting/pointy item) among HCP can transmit over 60 different diseases (AJIC 2006) the three most published being HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. With Hepatitis B, the risk of getting disease from a positive patient is a worrying 1 in 30. This worrying is an important but often neglected facet. HCP often have to wait months for confirmation of “All clear” and have to modify their sexual and maternal practices while waiting, and this takes a huge emotional toll on injured HCP. I know of 4 marriages that have broken under this stress.

Along with many colleagues I am striving to bring this situation to the notice of politicians, healthcare administrators and managers, and the public. We need put zero back on the radar. We need find a new vigor to protect these workers – it may be more intense, repetitive, competency-based education, HCP ownership of their safety, or technology less dependent on human behavior, but a change must occur.