Working in the healthcare industry has a range of different health and safety considerations and there are a number of risks for workers. If you work within the healthcare industry, it is very important to ensure that you have the appropriate health and safety training so that you can reduce your risks on the job.
Healthcare professionals are required by law to offer training in the safe handling and disposal of Sharps, as well as training for hygiene and biological hazards.
It is very important to dispose of used needles and other sharps, because they can be dangerous to people and pets if not disposed correctly. They can spread the germs which cause serious health conditions. The most common diseases that are transferred by incorrect disposal of sharps are hepatitis C, hepatitis B and Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
What are Sharps?
Sharps is a term that is used to describe any devices with sharp points and edges that can cut or puncture the skin. This could include needles, syringes, lancets (the small finger stick devices used by diabetics), auto-injectors such as Epi-pens, infusion sets and connection needles. Sharps are also used in the medical profession to manage conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, allergies, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, blood clotting disorders and infertility. Of course, since health care professionals deal with a large volume of these sharps on a daily basis, they have an increased chance of incurring injury. This is a serious threat and contracting blood borne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B will prevent these healthcare workers from providing their services. Also, contracting these diseases can affect the employee for the rest of their life and have a serious negative impact on their quality and length of life.
Not only are medical workers at risk for coming into contact with sharps, also housekeepers, janitors, sewage workers and trash workers are at risk for encountering these sharps when they are not correctly disposed of.
Also, the dangers of sharps is relevant to working in a laboratory as well. Scientists and lab technicians should take extra care when they are using blood vials, scalpels and razor blades, Pasteru pipettes, syringe barrels, microscopic slides and any glassware that is contaminated with infectious agents.
Tips for Preventing Injuries when Working with Sharps
It is the legal and moral responsibility of the employer to ensure that there is a health and safety policy regarding the safe use and disposal of sharps in the workplace. Also, it is up to that employer to make sure that the policy is fully understood by all employees and enforced on a daily basis. Here are some tips to keep in mind when working with sharps in order to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you:
- Don’t unwrap a sharp object until right before you are going to use it.
- Always keep the sharp object pointed away from you at all times and keep your fingers far away from the tip of the object.
- Don’t hand sharp objects to someone else or place them in a tray for someone else to pick up.
- After using a sharp, always place it in a sharps disposal container in order to reduce the risk of punctures and needle-sticks.
- A sharps disposal container should be made of heavy duty plastic and should be able to close with a tight-fitting lid – without any sharps being able to come out. It should also be stable enough to stay upright during use.
- Always know where the official sharps disposal container is and check to make sure that there is enough room in the container for the object you are placing in to fit.
- A large facility should have several small sharps disposals throughout the building, so that employees will not have to walk a long distance while carrying a sharp.
- The sharps disposal units will need to be emptied by someone who is trained in sharps disposal. They will likely haul it away with a truck to the appropriate destruction facility.
- Never ever place needles or other sharps down the toilet, in the trash or in the recycle bin.
- Never try to recap a used syringe, as this can be very dangerous and creates the risk of cutting or puncturing your skin.
How to Deal with a Sharps Injury
If you are following the right health and safety procedures, you should eliminate all risk of injuring yourself with a sharp. However, if an injury does occur it is important to know how to deal with it.
The main risk associated with a cut from a sharp object is the exposure to infection. If the sharp penetrates your skin, it can infect you with a blood-borne pathogen. If you experience an injury from a sharp, you should encourage the wound to bleed gently while holding it under running water. Next, wash the wound and the area around it with lots of soap. Be careful not to scrub the wound while you are washing it. Also, do not suck the wound.
Once the wound is clean, you should dry it carefully and cover it with a waterproof plaster. At this point, it is very important to seek immediately medical attention. There is sometimes a chance that you could take a prophylaxis that will help to fight the infection. If this accident has happened in the workplace, it is essential that you report the injury to your employer. The employer should assess what has happened and should take appropriate measures to ensure that the accident doesn’t happen again.
Health and Safety Training Is Essential
It is the moral and legal obligation of the employer to ensure that all healthcare workers have the appropriate health and safety training and that their training covers the safe handling and disposal of Sharps. There are a range of relevant health and safety courses available at locations across the country.