Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Pointing the Way to Reducing Needlestick Injuries. (Leaders)

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Pointing the Way to Reducing Needlestick Injuries. (Leaders)

Article excerpt

Janine Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, is one of several researchers whose efforts to document needlestick injuries helped build the foundation for OSHA's updated bloodborne pathogen standard and contributed to the availability of safer medical devices.

Occupational Hazards (OH): A recent report, published in Advances in Exposure Prevention, compared needlestick injury rates from 1993 to 2001. The research showed a dramatic drop in needlestick injuries. To what do you attribute that drop?

Janine Jagger: I think the change in needlestick injury rates is due to the proportion of safety devices implemented by healthcare facilities. Most of the changes are required of hospitals and healthcare facilities by law [29 CFR 1910.1030, Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens]. There's no question of whether or not they want to implement safe needle devices. In order to be in compliance with the law, they must do it.

OH: When did the turnaround occur?

Jagger: The transition started in the early 1990s, but it accelerated at the time the law was passed in 2001.

OH: If there was one thing you could say to OSHA, what would it be?

Jagger: The center has worked hand-in-glove with OSHA and has provided documentation to support OSHA's recommendations and requirements. They have been the main, proactive agency on this issue. They've acted with great responsibility, so I guess I'd say "Thank you."

OH: Do you expect the rates of needlestick injuries to continue to drop?

Jagger: It is probably still going down, but there are other factors besides devices that play a role.

While the risk of American healthcare workers getting stuck by a device is lower, because of changes in the healthcare system, the length of hospital stays is shorter. Nurses and other healthcare providers see more patients in a shorter period of time and the intensity of care has increased. To some degree, these changes may offset the benefits of safer needle devices.

OH: Have there been problems getting healthcare facilities to switch to safer devices?

Jagger: Anecdotally, we've heard there's been a good-faith effort to comply with the standard, but there have been a lot of imperfections in compliance. For example, there are safety devices, such as self-sheathing syringes, that are being used for inappropriate applications, If a nurse uses a syringe with a safety device to draw blood, then she has to get the blood out of the syringe and into the specimen container. …

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