Last updated: December 27, 2020
Objects with sharp edges or points that can cut or puncture skin are medically termed as sharps. If not disposed of safely, used needles and other sharps are dangerous to other people and pets as they can spread infections or can injure people consequently causing serious health issues like hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), HIV, etc1. After using, the contaminated needles must immediately be placed in a sharps disposal container to avoid incidents like cuts, punctures, or needle sticks from loose sharps. Needle once used, should never be recapped. One must follow the community guidelines while getting rid of sharps and sharps disposal containers. Accidental needle sticks can lead to serious infections that is why a person shouldn't recap, bend, remove, or break a contaminated needle. Without a needle clipper, the needle can fly off, fall, or get lost and injure someone so it is instructed to remove a needle with a needle clipper. Do not throw loose needles and other sharps in the trash or recycle bin as they are not recycled2 .
The gloves, facemasks, respirators, protective clothing, helmets, face shields, goggles, etc are included in personal protective equipment (abbreviated as PPE). These equipment are designed to protect the person from the spread of infection, an illness, or injury. PPE, on proper use, acts as a barrier between infectious materials like bacterial or viral contaminants and a person's skin, nose, mouth, or eyes (mucous membranes)3. Proper and effective use of PPE includes proper removal and disposal of contaminated PPE to prevent the exposure of infection to other people and the wearer. The maintenance and provision of PPE is the responsibility of the employer. The employer is responsible to pay for the replacement of PPE. To avoid the risk of infections and to ensure safety, employers should provide appropriate PPE and effective training for its usage4.
If a sharps disposal container is not available right away, there is a need to recap the needle or use a needle clipper until an appropriate sharps disposal container is found and the needle can be disposed of. In such a situation where the needle needs to be recapped, never remove the hypodermic needle from the syringe by hand, also do not break or bend it. This may result in accidental cuts, puncture, or needle sticks. A mechanical device must be used while recapping, if not available use one hand scoop method. Steps for one-hand scoop method are:
Recapped needles should then be disposed of immediately as soon as the disposal container is available5.
Washing hands is one of the most important and easiest ways to stay healthy. It prevents the spread of diseases and infections from one person to the other. Germs spread from surfaces or other people when we eat food with unwashed hands, touch contaminated surfaces, touch mouth, eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands. With clean, running water, wet your hands, turn the tap off and apply soap. Rub your hands together with soap to lather your hands. Lather the back of the hand, around the nails, and between the fingers. At least scrub the hands for 20 seconds7. Then rinse the hands well under clean, running water. Then dry the hands using a towel or air. In most situations, washing hands with water and soap is the best way to get rid of germs. If water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used6.
Something that causes the disease is termed as a pathogen. Infectious microorganisms present in human blood that cause diseases are known as bloodborne pathogens. Public safety personnel, emergency response, healthcare workers, or other workers can have blood exposure through needlestick and other sharp injuries causing skin and mucous membrane exposures. The pathogens of prime concern are hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)8. Employers and workers should take all necessary precautionary measures to prevent exposure to blood and other body fluids. To create a barrier between people and germs isolation precautions must be followed to prevent the spread of pathogens in the hospital9. In case of exposure to blood or any body fluid, one must seek medical help as soon as possible.
OSHA has made a developed model template that lays down a guideline for making an exposure control plan. According to OSHA BBP standards, certain criteria should be met for devising the plan9. An exposure control plan is a plan written to minimize or completely eliminate occupational exposures. It is the responsibility of the employers to prepare this plan, it contains a list of job classifications and tasks or procedures that workers perform, which results in their exposure. Employers should annually update the plan and document that they consider using effective, appropriate, safer, and commercially available devices that are designed to minimize or avoid occupational exposure10. The workers should be regularly educated about the uses of an exposure control plan and about the place where it's kept to ensure its availability when it's needed. An effective plan protects your workers which in return reduces incident costs.