Psychiatric consequences of needlestick injury

Some time has passed since this paper by Green and Griffiths was published. Unsurprisingly, the professional journals and magazines, and the trades union RCN are up in arms about the impact to nurses, and separately to surgeons and physicians. Quite right too.

But the paper, which investigated the psychological welfare of 17 individuals having sharps injury. Only 5 of these five (29%) were in “the health sector (nurses and paramedics)” while the remainder fell into a category of ‘other occupations’ which involved police officers, porters, cleaners, a builder, a manager and one unemployed person.

Of the 3 brief case individual reports included in the paper, only 1 was a healthcare worker. This lady was injured while working in an accident and emergency department. Perhaps a nurse, or possibly a support worker/cleaner, we are not told, the lady was emptying a clinic bin and was replacing a bag when a needle, which had been incorrectly disposed of, pierced her leg. The remaining 2 cases involved a coach driver and postal worker respectively.

Leaving aside the serious issue of a healthcare professional incorrectly placing a used needle into a soft-walled clinical waste sack, the occupations of those involved in this sharps injury series requires further consideration. With so much noised from the medical and nursing professions, about the risks and impact of sharps injury that they may face, it seems that it is the ancillary worker and others who are at real risk.

We at Blenkharn Environmental and at the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum and are doing all we can to highlight the risks of waste handlers and ancillary and support staff. Perhaps the waste and services sectors simply have no voice. At least, they could shout a little louder.

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