The risk of sharps injuries for health care workers
Those who work in the health care field serving patients should be commended and appreciated, whether they are a physician, a nurse or a nurse’s assistant. At all levels, these jobs carry risks that most don’t have to deal with. One risk that is especially worrisome for many is getting injured by sharps while on duty.
What are Sharps Related Injuries?
Sharps are needles, blades, or scalpels often present in healthcare settings that, when used, become contaminated with the patient’s bodily fluids. Strict rules are in place at healthcare and related facilities in order to reduce the incidence of exposure by health care workers. Despite this, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 385,000 sharps related injuries each year.
In most cases, contact with patient blood is harmless, but the wrong contact can cause serious illness or even prove fatal, due to blood borne pathogens. More than 20 diseases can potentially be transmitted in this matter, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. Those exposed may not even be aware of an infection until long after exposure, causing them additional anxiety and disruption to their lives.
Tracking sharps injuries
With so many potential injuries, the CDC’s Occupational Health and Safety Network has started a better tracking system for work-related sharps injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Two electronic modules will be used to track sharps related injuries. Going forward, the CDC will be able to maintain more verifiable information regarding these types of injuries.
Take care of yourself
If you are injured by a sharp at work, it is important to properly rinse the wound and care for it, and file a report as soon as possible. Your employer should help you determine the likelihood or unlikelihood of exposure. Still, even if your chance of serious illness or injury appears to be small, it is important to keep track of any symptoms you experience. An attorney can help you determine how to get the compensation you might need down the road, and help to prevent you from being short changed on a workers’ compensation suit.