Archive April 2014 XV, No. 4

A Sharps Safety Program Even OSHA Could Love

Inspectors lauded our efforts to limit needlesticks and cuts.

Jennifer Skersick, RN


sharps containers next to each patient ARM'S LENGTH Place sharps containers next to each patient care area to make disposals quick and easy.

Zero citations on your OSHA review is nice, but it's really saying something when OSHA commends your sharps safety program. We were delighted to earn OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), a certification reserved for facilities that go above and beyond the agency's standard requirements. What really impressed the OSHA inspectors? Our hands-free instrument passing, double-gloving and use of the latest safety-engineered devices.

  • Safety scalpels. We're lucky to work with surgeons who are receptive to adapting their practices to incorporate safety devices. If there are devices they're not used to using, they'll work with them until they are. That includes the oft-maligned safety scalpels that many surgeons still resist using, perhaps because they haven't seriously considered the devices since significant improvements have been made to older, clunky models. Today's safety blades are weighted, well-balanced and available with a wide variety of easy-to-use safety features, including retractable blades and single-handed sheath activation.

    You might still experience push-back from surgeons, but we've found that simply making safety scalpels available is one of the keys to getting them used. Our surgeons use retractable scalpels to make small cuts — urologists make small incisions in testicles and ENT docs make small incisions behind the ear for tympanoplasty. There's nothing minor about sharps injury risks. No matter how minor the procedure might seem, we're happy surgeons are willing to employ the safer option.
  • No more needlesticks. All of our needles are self-capping, and our IV catheters feature needles that automatically retract into the system after use, which significantly decreases the risk of needlestick injuries.
  • Double-gloving. Any patient is potentially an infection risk. Physicians perform initial health histories, but patients might not disclose infections they have, so we treat every patient as if he's infectious. That means all surgeons and staff must protect themselves with proper personal protective equipment. Stock glove sizes to fit every staff member and surgeon.
    Our surgeons double-glove during procedures, which has been shown to reduce the risk of needlestick- and sharps-related injuries. Gloves with indicator systems — a green inner glove worn below an outer glove — can alert staff and surgeons to small breaches that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, further improving the usefulness of double-gloving.
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