Zero tolerance as key target for the prevention of sharps injuries!

Posted on December 4, 2013

Sharps injuries are a reality that a lot of healthcare professionals have already been confronted to. It is estimated that 1 million sharps/needle stick injuries occur every year, which is, still today, an unacceptable extremely high number of incidents! Taking into account these numbers and the end of the implementation process (May 2013) of the Directive 2010/32/EU on prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector, adopted in May 2010, the European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN) undertook an online survey, aiming to reach frontline healthcare professionals to evaluate the state of implementation of the Directive into their daily practice.

Focussing on risk assessment; elimination, prevention and protection; information and awareness-raising; education and training; and reporting, the survey was answered by almost 7.000 health professionals from the 28 EU Member States, with 95% of respondents being nurses. The results, presented on 2 December 2013, at the 4th European Biosafety Summit held in Warsaw, show that 41% of the respondents have already suffered a sharps injury incident, and that many healthcare professionals do not have yet access to a range of safety devices, even if overall, the respondents feel that their countries have put in place some adequate measures, with a positive impact in their daily practice and clinical environment. It also shows that some areas are less covered than others, as: specific education on sharp injuries prevention, the performance of risk assessments at the workplace, the explicit ban of recapping, awareness campaigns, and a lack of attention to community care and elderly homes. There is also a common understanding that more actions are needed to guide professionals on what to do when they suffer from a sharps injury, and that the guidelines need to be better rooted into daily practices.

As such, it is important that we go further in this implementation and that we make sure to reach a 100% prevention of sharps injuries in the healthcare settings as a necessary condition for a healthy and competent health workforce. From an EFN perspective, the approach towards sharps injuries shall be the one of zero-tolerance. Therefore, being the largest group of the healthcare professions, working 24h per day and 7 days a week at to patients’ bedside, it is crucial that nurses are engaged in this risk assessment and that this is not seen just as a theoretical exercise managed by managers or directors. A first step to improve this situation should be the development of a reference colleague – a “Link Nurse” – working closely with the nurses, and other health professionals, and which would take up a more prominent role in the prevention of sharp injuries at the workplace.

Biosafety Summit - Dec2013

To view the pictures of the event, click here.
To view a small video of the event, click here.