NIOSH Highlights Rising Sharps Injuries

The latest posted data from the Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet™) is from 2007 reports, which showed the injury rates rose for teaching but not nonteaching facilities.

NIOSH highlighted the STOP STICKS campaign on its highly popular Twitter site July 20, linking to a campaign page that notes CDC estimates U.S. health care workers suffer about 385,000 sharps-related injuries annually. NIOSH said data from the Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet™) "indicate this number may have been increasing steadily during the past nine years," adding, "It is estimated about one third of these injuries go unreported."

The most recent data posted on the EPINet website is from 2007 reports, and this report was posted in August 2009. It showed the rates of percutaneous injury rose for teaching facilities (from 33.42 per 100 occupied beds in 2006 to 33.49 per 100 occupied beds in 2007) but not for nonteaching (it fell from 16.88 per 100 occupied beds in 2006 to 16.16 per 100 occupied beds in 2007).

The rates and the total of 951 injuries reported in 2007 by the 29 participating health care facilities excluded injuries that occurred before a sharp was used in patient care.

While 322 of the injuries were suffered by RNs or LPNs, another 308 were suffered by physicians, according to the report. Disposable syringes, suture needles, and winged steel needles were the types of devices involved in the highest number of injuries. While 58 percent of the injuries caused by a needed involved a needle that lacked a safety design, 37.4 percent of such injuries involved a safety designed needle, it states.

STOP STICKS is an awareness campaign seeking to motivate health care workers, strengthen health care organizations' safety cultures, and encourage the use of safe sharps and prevention best practices. Materials available at the campaign's website were developed primarily for operating room and emergency department audiences, but the campaign's target audience includes clinical and non-clinical health care workers and health care administrators in hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, and home health care agencies.

NIOSH developed the materials and tested the campaign with partners, including the Palmetto Health Alliance, Dorn VA Hospital, CM Tucker Nursing Care Center, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, PHT Services, the Association of Professionals in Infection Control, the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, the South Carolina Nurses Association, and health care employers in Columbia, S.C.

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