Sharps injuries can be minimised with appropriate risk management systems
According to statistics compiled by the Medical Industry Association, at least one in nine nurses in NSW will suffer a sharps injury each year. A needlestick or sharps injury occurs when the skin is punctured by a used needle, scalpel or other sharp instrument, putting nurses at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C through exposure to contaminated blood.
Employers in the healthcare sector have a legal responsibility under Clauses 11 and 12 of the OH&S Regulation 2001 to eliminate the hazard of sharps injuries, or, if not ‘reasonably practicable’, to control the risk. This includes having in place an efficient local system for reporting and managing potential risks of contracting infectious diseases through exposure to blood and other body substances.
Following the infection control practices at your workplace is the first line of protection for nurses against exposure to HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
While sharps injuries are an occupational hazard for nurses that must be carefully managed, the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C through exposure to contaminated blood is relatively low. The risk of transmission of an infection from a sharp injury where there is contamination is one in three for Hepatitis B, one in 30 for Hepatitis C and one in 300 for HIV.
Minimise the risk of infection
There are measures that can reduce the risk of contracting an infectious disease from exposure to blood and body substances
What to do if a sharps injury occurs
24-hour NSW Needlestick Injury Hotline
The NSW Needlestick Injury Hotline is an information, referral and support service for health care workers who receive a needlestick injury or are exposed to blood and body fluids.
Funded by NSW Health, calls to the Hotline are answered by clini-cal consultants and medical officers who will assess the situation and provide appropriate information, advice and counselling.
The NSW Needlestick Injury Hotline operates as an adjunct to existing management systems at local workplaces. It does not replace local management of occupational exposures.
NSW Needlestick Injury Hotline: 1800 804 823
Sharps safer with NSW Health project
A ‘Sharps Safety’ project has been established by NSW Health to develop a policy framework to minimise and, where possible, eliminate risks associated with sharps use in NSW public healthcare organisations (PHOs).
The NSWNA is a member of the multi-disciplinary reference group set up to inform and steer the two-year project.
NSWNA OHS Officer, Trish Butrej, said: ‘The Sharps Safety Project has the potential to improve nurses’ health and safety and further evolve nursing practice.’
Data collected by NSW Health since 2003 reveals the range of parenteral exposures reported is 673–1056, and the range of non-parenteral exposures is 260–457.
The first stages of the project include a review of the processes relating to the procurement of consumable clinical items including safety engineered medical devices and a survey of health workers who use sharps in the workplace to examine local resources and procedures for preventing and managing body substance exposures and sharps injuries.
For further information on the Sharps Safety Project, contact Project Manager Mark Friedewald on 02 4320 2132.
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