Safety syringes/needles – an additional hygiene and safety problem?

Having spent an hour or so in each of two busy hospital phlebotomy rooms last week it was interesting to observe the approach to newly introduced safety needle devices.

Using the cheapest available safety needles that require the user to flip over a protective sheath once the needle had been used, several phlebotomists used their fingers to do this and in so doing brought their fingers dangerously close to the needle tip. Though with care this was not a particularly dangerous maneuver it was likely that with time the level of care would fall as familiarisation and complacency increase. Particularly at busy periods, the risk of sharps injury was possibly increased rather than decreased!  

Another potential hazard was the observation that the majority of phlebotomists ‘activated’ the needle safety by hitting the device against a hard surface. This was in many cases the adjacent work surface though some used the sharps bin to activate the safety device. As noted by others, activation of these safety covers is associated with an increased incidence of blood splash and indeed many splashes of blood were visible over the bins and work top. It looked quiet a mess and was an obvious hygiene failure.

The other issue is the likelihood that these, and probably most other, sharps bins will now see an increase in the incidence of blood staining, and potentially of staining with splashes on drug residue, on their external surfaces.

Gloves should be worn at all times when handling sharps bins, as they move through the hospital environment to a local waste store and subsequently as they pass along the disposal chain. With the increased likelihood of extensive external soiling, perhaps it would become the norm to place these sealed sharps bins into waste sacks for subsequent disposal?

You heard it here first.


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