Needlestick Injuries in the Workplace

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are approximately 800,000 needlestick injuries each year in the United States, 16,000 of which could be contaminated with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). OSHA reports that the overall rate of needlestick injuries is 27 per 100 occupied beds annually.

Who Is at Risk?
Workers in the health care industry are at the greatest risk of sustaining needlestick injuries, as well as other sharps-related injuries, including stab wounds from scalpels or other sharp objects. These injuries often occur due to improper procedures, dangerous equipment, inadequate training, and fatigue due to stressful, fast-paced work environments.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2002, two million of the 35 million health care workers were exposed to infectious diseases. Among health care workers, nurses are the most frequently injured by needlestick injuries, accounting for 49.7 percent of exposures.

The Dangers and Costs of Needlestick Injuries
Needlestick injuries can cause serious or fatal infections. In addition to HIV, needlestick injuries may expose workers to more than 20 bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. The WHO reports that 37.6 percent of Hepatitis B and 39 percent of Hepatitis C in health care workers are due to needlestick injuries. These diseases can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis, primary hepatocellular carcinoma, and death.

Most injuries are not reported; therefore, it is difficult to measure the true cost of sharps-related injuries in terms of medical expenses and lost productivity. However, it is estimated to be $188.5 million per year. The American Hospital Association reports that just one case of bloodborne pathogen infection can cost around one million dollars for testing, follow-up, lost time from work, and disability payments.

Preventing Needlestick Injuries in the Workplace
Employers of health care workers must provide a safe workplace for their employees. One of the ways they can do so is by protecting workers from exposure to bloodborne illnesses. Employers should avoid using traditional needles in favor of safer alternatives, such as devices with safety features. OSHA recommends having a worksite-specific needlestick prevention program in place that includes training on the proper use and disposal of needles, as well as reporting procedures for needlestick injuries.

Many needlestick injuries occur when employees recap needles or dispose of needles in inappropriate containers. Therefore, health care workers should avoid recapping, and dispose of needles only in puncture-resistant sharps disposal containers.

In the event of a needlestick or sharps injury, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that employees immediately wash the cut with soap and water, flush their nose, mouth and eyes with water or sterile irrigants, seek immediate medical treatment, and report the incident to their supervisor.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Health care Workers Who Have Sustained Needlestick Injuries
If you sustained a needlestick injury or other sharps-related injury, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We provide knowledgeable, experienced representation in all workplace injury matters. We represent clients throughout Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form for a free consultation.

Our legal team provides skilled representation to those residing in and around Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.

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