Data from the CDC shows that nurses have the highest percentage of sharps injuries. Physicians and other specialized technicians are second, followed by lab staff, and other support personnel.
The majority of sharps injuries, over 60%, occur on inpatient units – particularly medical floors and ICUs and in operating rooms. The remaining occur in the ER, lab and outpatient units. Other areas not typically associated with direct patient care, laundry or trash disposal.
Injuries occur most often when the needle is being inserted, manipulated or withdrawn from the patient. Additional injuries happen after use on the patient, while handling or passing equipment, recapping contaminated needles, transfer/processing specimens, during clean up, transporting to disposal and during disposal. Another 10% occur when healthcare personnel collide with one another. Other injuries occur with improper disposal or sharps being left in unusual places such as table, trays, in laundry, trash or laundry. Out of all needles and other sharp devices that are in use, the most common devices that account for the majority of injuries (over 70%) are disposable needles, suture needles, winged-style phlebotomy needles and scalpels. The hollow-bore needle injuries are particularly concerning because they are more likely to contain residual blood. This increases the risk of transmission for blood borne pathogens, viruses, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. The most serious of these with the highest infection rates are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.
Although the majority of injuries are due to sharps, splash injuries can happen, leading to exposure through mucous membranes or any open areas on the skin. Immediately after the injury, induce bleeding, wash the wound with soap and water for several minutes. Flush the eyes, nose, mouth or skin with copious amounts water, saline or sterile irrigant for at least 15 minutes. Contact supervisor, seek immediate treatment and follow company policy for guidelines and treatment recommendations.