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Sharps injury prevention – what you can do


Sharps or needlestick injuries are recognised as one of the most significant occupational health and safety hazards for Australian healthcare workers.

Even though nearly 20,000 sharps injuries are reported in Australia each year, it’s estimated that this may be only half the true figure. It’s easy to see why sharps injury prevention is one of the top three safety issues for Australian Operating Room staff.

With sharps injury prevention practices we aim to eliminate the threat of sharps injuries during use, passing and disposal of sharps in the operating room – and reduce the potential for transmission of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B or C, and HIV/AIDS.

What are sharps injuries?

Sharps injuries, also called percutaneous injuries or needlestick injuries, occur when medical instruments such as needles, blades or scalpels penetrate the skin. Accidental exposure to blood and body fluids, especially in the surgical setting, can also be a complicating factor in sharps and needlestick injuries.

Unlike the US, UK, EU and Canada, Australia doesn’t yet mandate the use of safety or retractable devices in operating theatres. That means that introducing properly safety-engineered surgical devices, and supporting them with a comprehensive training and education program, is a must to provide safe systems of working for healthcare workers.

High risk instruments for sharps injuries

Statistics show that 78% of sharps injuries* are caused by needles and syringes, with the remainder caused by other high risk instruments such as suture needles, scissors, scalpel blades, and sharp retractors.

Because sharps injuries can occur at any time – including while the item is being used; after its use and before disposal; during disposal; or when recapping a used needle – it’s important to utilise a number of preventive strategies and equipment in conjunction to avoid sharps injuries.

*Source: Activities associated with percutaneous injuries in EPINet hospitals, by % total percutaneous injuries (n= 951) 2007 (Source: EPINet [2009] ).

Preventing sharps injuries through improved equipment and training

More than 50% of sharps injuries worldwide occur either during the use of, or when passing devices. Elite Medical provides safety-engineered medical equipment which is designed to reduce sharps injuries, and save costs for Australian hospitals.

Safety scalpels & handles feature a retractable sheath that fully covers the blade to enable safe passing. The safety shield button easily locks or unlocks the scalpel with either left or right handed use to prevent sharps injury.

Hands-free transfer trays allow the safe handover of instruments without passing by hand; minimising the risk of both sharps injuries and cross-contamination. The Z-Tray is ideal for the hands-free transfer of standard sized instruments, while the unique Stretch-A-Tray can expand to 30.5 cm to accommodate hands-free transfer of larger instruments.

Neutral zones designated for instruments can provide a safe space for sharps transfer. Our Z-Friction Drape is a non-slip, non-magnetised material that holds sharp instruments securely wherever they are placed. It’s an efficient single-use alternative to reusable magnetic drapes.

Refine your strategies for reducing sharps injuries in the OR

Elite Medical’s consultants have the knowledge and experience to create a comprehensive sharps injury prevention strategy for your operating theatre.

To find out more about how Elite Medical can help you prevent sharps injuries, book a product demonstration today. And to learn more about operating theatre safety, ask about our education sessions here.

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