Injuries caused by sharp instruments among healthcare workers – international and Polish perspectives

Anna Włoszczak-Szubzda 2, 3  ,  
Emergency Medicine Unit, Medical University of Lublin, Poland
Department of Health Informatics and Statistics, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology, University of Economics and Innovation, Lublin, Poland
Biological Threats Identification and Countermeasure Centre of the Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Puławy, Poland
Department of Disaster Medicine, University of Medical Sciences, Poznań, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2012;19(3):523–527
Health care workers (HCW) worldwide are especially exposed to injury by sharp instruments in the course of their duty. The most often executed procedures with injury risk are: intramuscular or subcutaneous injection (22%), taking blood samples, or during intravenous cannulation (20%), and repeatedly replacing the cap on an already used needle (30%). Even a minor sharp injury with only a small loss of blood carries the risk of transfer of over 20 pathogens: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), HIV/AIDS virus, malaria, syphilis, tuberculosis, brucellosis, herpes virus and diphtheria. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than two million health care workers experience the stressful event of a percutaneous injury with a contaminated sharp object each year (25-90% of them, however, remain unreported). These exposures result in about 16,000 infections with HCV, 66,000 with HBV and about 1,000 (200-5000) with HIV, which lead to about 1,100 deaths or significant disability. Exposures to sharp injuries and their consequences are highly preventable through simple interventions, such as HBV vaccination, education and providing containers for sharp instruments. Specific guidelines, similar to the American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations that have lowered by up to 88% of needle stabbing incidents, should be introduced by the European Union (EU) and other countries. The results of a review of reports leads to the following conclusions: 1) elaboration and implementation of new State regulations, especially in EU countries and in countries where such regulations do not exist; 2) the training of health care personnel should always be undertaken for new employees, and periodically for those already employed; 3) periodical control by appointed inspectors of knowledge of procedures for the prevention of injuries by sharp instruments among health care workers; 4) introducing and training in the use of equipment, which can prevent the sharp injuries; 5) an advanced monitoring system of sharp injuries sustained by worker should also be introduced. Successful implementation of these prevention measures will result in progress for public health and HCW’s health and safety.
Anna Włoszczak-Szubzda   
Department of Health Informatics and Statistics, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
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