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“Since passage of the Massachusetts Act to Relative to Needlestick Injury Prevention, measurable progress has been made, but significant work remains in our efforts to eradicate preventable sharps injuries. Unfortunately, healthcare workers continue to bear the brunt of the burden of these potentially life-changing exposures.  We cannot afford to be complacent about sharps safety, but rather must remain vigilant in our efforts to keep workers and patients safe.”

Karen Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, past president of the American Nurses Association and past president of ANA Massachusetts

2015 marks fifteen years since the passage of the Massachusetts Act Relative to Needlestick Injury Prevention aimed at protecting healthcare workers from needlesticks and other sharps injuries.

Massachusetts–where healthcare is the largest industry–was one of the first states to take steps to reduce sharps injuries with the passage of this law in 2000. The Act requires DPH licensed hospitals to: Needle Sticks CDC Infographic

  • use sharps with engineered sharps injury protections (SESIPs), that when activated, protect workers from sharps injury after the device has been used;
  • maintain an exposure control plan that outlines the procedure for selecting devices;
  • report sharps injury data to DPH annually; and
  • use sharps injury data for continuous quality improvement in reducing sharps injuries by providing training and purchasing more protective devices.

Since passage of the Act, the DPH Occupational Health Surveillance Program (OHSP) has maintained the Massachusetts Sharps Injury Surveillance System to collect, analyze and disseminate these data to inform prevention efforts.  DPH also works with hospitals to teach them to use their own data for continuous quality improvement in order to prevent similar injuries in the future.

Progress in Preventing Injuries

The state law emphasizes the importance of using SESIPs. Since OHSP began collecting data in 2002, Massachusetts hospitals have made considerable progress, as reflected in the declining rates of injuries.

 

 

 

Needle Sticks Last Time

The proportion of sharps injuries occurring with non-SESIPs declined substantially from 68% in 2002 to 49% in 2013.  This decline is an indicator of the wider adoption of SESIPs. During the same period, the rate of sharps injuries declined from 19.1 to 16.1 per 100 licensed beds.

More Work Ahead

The use of SESIPs is critical to prevention and hospitals need to increase the use of these devices. However, not all injuries can be prevented by using SESIPs.

In 2013:

  • 44% of sharps injuries occurred while the device was being used, a time when these features cannot be activated; and
  • 22% of the sharps injuries occurred with suture needles, a type of device for which there are limited safer alternatives.

Work practice controls are important components of a comprehensive sharps injury prevention program. Examples include training on proper techniques for various procedures, appropriate disposal practices, and use of hands-free passing.  These, and other prevention methods, are outlined in the CDC Workbook for Designing, Implementing and Evaluating a Sharps Injury Prevention Program.

OHSP will continue to work with the dedicated staff in Massachusetts hospitals to track sharps injuries occurring among hospital workers and identify ways to prevent these injuries.

 

Written By:


Epidemiologists with the Occupational Health Surveillance Program

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