Association of Hospital Safety Risk Practitioners (LOXANG)

”As a Risk Manager within the NHS and a representative of LOXANG I have a special interest in reducing the number of accidents particularly those involving sharps as well as sharing best practice. LOXANG is a regional association of NHS Risk Managers that meet on a bi-monthly basis to discuss new legislation, share good practice and assist each other with any problems.”

”Sharps are classified as any injury caused by penetration of the skin, this includes needles, scalpels and glass. The victim is concerned about even minor injuries because the sharp may be contaminated with a bloodborne virus such as Hepatitis C.”

”Users can injure or become infected when using sharps, or when it is being discarded. Even after disposal sharps can be dangerous to persons such as porters when transferring clinical waste or laundry workers sorting dirty hospital linen.”

”ALL PERSONS SHOULD TAKE EXTRA CARE WHEN HANDLING SHARPS.”

Keith Hicks, Risk Manager, Representative of LOXANG

The risks from sharps include:

The danger of infection from micro-organisms or bloodborne viruses, which may be present on the sharp.

Where sharps are not disposed of correctly and an injury or infection is sustained there may be a claim for damages.

If health and safety legislation is breached the Health and Safety Executive may prosecute both individuals and organisations.

Measures you can take to reduce the risk:

Prior to use of Sharps all employees:

  • Should be given a copy of the procedure for inoculated or exposed staff
  • Be aware of the procedure in the event of an accident
  • Have been offered the necessary immunisations
  • Know their immunisation status
  • Aware of the location of first aid materials
  • Have the necessary protective clothing
  • Know where incident forms are kept

Risk Assessment:

A risk assessment is required by law and should be undertaken by all managers this will highlight those persons who are at risk, the nature and extent of the risk, the severity, likelihood and risk factor and the methods for reducing that risk.

Sharps Policy:

Every organisation who may be affected by sharps should produce a policy on the safe use of sharps, using the expertise of the infection control team, occupational health and risk managers, it should also be regularly reviewed. Managers should ensure their staff are aware of their responsibilities under that policy.

New Technology:

Directors and Senior Managers should make themselves aware of the new technology in safer needles which they can do through this web page and also by obtaining manufacturers and suppliers brochures, and attending exhibitions. They must also ensure they keep up to date with new technology.

Individual Responsibilities:

It is your individual responsibility to ensure that sharps are always handled safely, to dispose of sharps correctly and safely and be aware that it is a criminal offence to discard an item in such a way as to cause injury to others.

When dealing with uncooperative patients, employees should always seek assistance.

Sharps Boxes:

Organisations should:

  • Ensure that the sharps boxes used are suitable for the intended purpose.
  • They should be located strategically and safely
  • The box should always be taken to the sharp
  • The box must not be filled beyond three-quarter capacity
  • Never allow hands to be placed inside the box
  • Secure them when three-quarters full and when being disposed of mark them with the date and place of origin.

 

Safe Disposal:

Employers must ensure that

  • All sharps are discarded directly into a sharps box
  • Needles are not re-sheathed by hand or bent or broken
  • The needle remover on the box is used when disposing of the sharp

Patients injured by sharps:

Staff must ensure that where the patient suffers a sharps injury they always receive sympathetic attention, prompt treatment, counselling and reassurance.

Reporting Incidents:

Managers should ensure that an incident form is always completed and a full investigation undertaken. Risk Managers and Clinical Directors can contribute to this process through tracking and trending via electronic incident data and by using their access to the Clinical Governance Committee and the Board of Directors.

Communications:

The risk manager, infection control team and occupational health should run training sessions, seminars, courses and awareness sessions on the availability of new technology safety devices on a regular basis.

Conclusion:

Help to make the workplace a safer place, do not give up in your goal of reducing the number of sharps injuries, speak to your line manager, use the clinical and non-clinical committees, lobby your board of directors, support the needlestick forum by sending us your comments and ideas.