Sharps like needles, blades and syringes are both very important and very dangerous in terms of medical uses and also some non-medical uses at home (which are more unlikely causes). Even the littlest of these sharps can change one’s life upside down if they become contaminated with infected blood and body fluids. If that sharp causes an injury resulting from accidental skin punctures and lacerations, it is accompanied by risk of infections due to the defilement. They may cause little and not-so-visible wounds and scratches, but their effects are not as little nor as simple as they look like.
It is very threatening to think that with just one wrong move or irresponsible use of sharps, everything can be messed up. This is not some never before seen possibility because in reality, accidents caused by misuse of sharps happen. Usually, they do in hospitals and other medical institutions where sharps are widely, incessantly and necessarily utilized, thus, the people who are highly at risk of sharps injuries are those in the medical field such as nurses, doctors, operating department personnel, laboratory staff and even cleaners and most especially innocent patients.
Sharps injuries usually occur because of unanticipated accidents and honest mistakes. They may happen anytime in the medical area, but that does not mean that such mishaps cannot be avoided. They can! And the first thing to do is know what causes them! What are the usual causes of sharps injuries? What events, habits or actions involved in medical purposes can lead to them?
1 – Abrupt Patient Movements
Certainly, one of the causes that no one has control in is sudden patient movements.
A patient may become hyper or hysterical due to medications. Some might be hard to control and communicate with because of their medical conditions. Others might be too stubborn because they do not want to consume their medicine or food. Some patients are afraid of sharps.
Let’s say a nurse is about to perform an injection to a patient who isn’t in the most normal or comfortable state. In this case, if the patient is one of the previously aforementioned kinds, you can imagine scenarios in your mind that the patient will do one or all these three: (1) forcibly pushes away the nurse who will perform the injection, (2) puts much effort to be freed from being held or (3) be fidgety. All these actions may lead to accidents like injecting the sharp wrongly to the patient, to someone else in the room who isn’t sick or to the nurse himself or herself.
This situation is surely dangerous because there are medications which must only be given to sick people and not to well ones.
What to do: If you’ll be the one to administer anything involving sharps, make sure that the patient is already in a really calm state, recovered from the sudden fear or discomfort of seeing sharps and can be talked to before you take the sharps near him/her. If possible, don’t let other people come near when you’re already about to carry out the shot. If needed, wear thicker medical garments.
2 – Hand Passing
Common in operating rooms, laboratories and other medical areas where same sharps are mainly used by two or more people, hand passing sharps is definitely one of the most visible accidents the eyes can witness happening.
There are experiments, operations and other procedures that require everyone involved to examine the specimen or the subject being studied or treated. In some cases, several sharps are passed on from one person to another. Commonly, there are assistants who help their superiors perform operations by passing necessary some instruments like scissors or scalpel. Others might be in a hurry moving while holding sharps. These instances seem ordinary and safe, but they are not. One can accidentally thrust or cut through sharps if ever they bump into others or get out of balance.
What to do: Wear thicker and safe garments. Make it known to others before you hand pass sharps so that everyone will be aware and be more careful. The safest and most proper way to avoid the risks of sharp injury is not to hand pass them. Avoid passing them especially if they are exposed or uncapped. Use trays to transfer them from one place to another or to give them to others. As long as they are in your hands [bare or with gloves], you are at risk of the misfortune that goes with it.
3 – Manually Recapping Needles
It is not advisable to recap a needle although some situations require it. If you’re going to recap, you’ll use one hand to hold the cap and the other to hold the needle. What a risky thing to do. It isn’t simply dangerous, but it is like giving yourself a reason to fear for your life. Needles are thin and tiny, thus, their caps are small as well – meaning, it’s crucial to put the cap on since you have to make sure that the needle gets in properly and exactly. Recapping them, the needle might miss the cap and stab your hand, or it could go through the cap and again, prick the hand, or if the cap isn’t the perfect fit, it can be removed, stabbing the hand.
What to do: If recapping is required, don’t use your hands directly. Tongs can be used. If you can, learn using one hand while capping the needle. Immediately throw used needles if there’s no need to recap them. In general, avoid recapping them.
4 – Lack Of Proper Supplies
Sometimes, even when care is given, injuries caused by sharps still occur due to lack of proper equipment and supplies necessary. Mostly, these supplies are those used to keep and handle sharps and to protect oneself from them.
If medical suits and accessories are incomplete or inaccessible, then medical personnel will have no choice but to wear what they have – which is most likely, not the most proper outfit. If there are insufficient to no trays, they’ll be forced to hand pass sharps and to directly hold them if needed. If there are no sharps disposal containers, they’ll look for or create alternatives which are most probably not as effective or perfect as the “specially-made-for-sharps” ones.
What to do: Make good efforts to obtain what’s lacking. Avail them. There must be safer needle devices and sharps disposal containers. If there’s no easy way to attain them, just make sure that you will be able to choose alternatives closest to the most genuine and most advantageous ones.
5 – Misuse Of Sharps Disposal
Sharps disposal containers are so essential! Probably worse than having no sharps disposal at all is having one but using it improperly!
One, some have these containers but don’t use them! Two, others bend or break sharps before putting them in the container. Three, some push down sharps into the container using their hands. Four, others keep disposing sharps into the bin even when the other previously disposed sharps have already reached the brim or above it. Five, when the sharps were thrown, sometimes, they’re taken out again. Six, syringes and needles are separated before disposed. Seven, they’re not responsibly kept, enabling kids to reach them. These are just seven of the possible and most common ways people misuse sharps disposal containers.
What to do: Follow instructions regarding the use of sharps disposal containers. Keep in mind the do’s and, distinctly, the don’ts.
6 – Awareness And Training Deficiency
The biggest reason there could be for sharps injuries is lack of awareness and training in using and disposing them. There are some who know what sharps are, how they look like and what they are used for but not the risks of using them wrongly.
Some who are new in the medical field might be at a high risk since they’re still being trained, so they do not know everything yet. Those who have no experience and proper training in terms of this and put in positions where sharps are significant also have the possibility of such injuries.
What to do: It is very vital that everyone, whether you’re in the medical field or not, knows the crucial matters of sharps and the injuries that they might incur. Don’t be complacent just because scissors are common objects, just because needles are little, just because blades can only cut but not kill with it. Always be aware. Learn about sharps. Realize how blood and other body fluids (with diseases) can be transmitted with the use of them. Be properly trained if you’re into the medical sphere. Don’t be afraid to seek aid and learn.
Sharps may seem small but what they can do, if we do not properly use them and if we are not very alert, is terrible without a question.
These are the most common causes of sharps and sharps-related injuries. Hopefully, this piece enables all of us to do something more to lessen the number of sharps-related injuries leading to spread of diseases. What we all have to do, regardless of our fields, is to be always aware, extra mindful and very responsible as we handle and dispose sharps.
About the author
Nicole Ann Pore is a daytime writer for ASP Healthcare, a products supplier and distributor to the health and harm reduction industry in Australia. She believes that healthy individuals form a healthy community, and a healthy community is more attainable if there is discipline and unity. Because of the course she took up in college, Nicole has become interested in film critiquing and filmmaking. She is into events hosting and voice over acting and hosting. Nicole graduated Cum Laude from De La Salle University Manila, Philippines with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts .