Nurses and health workers at risk from needlestick injuries

Tuesday 4th May, 2010

The Australian Nursing Federation is gravely concerned about the serious risk to nurses from needlestick injury, with more than 18,000 pricked by syringes and sharps each year.

Ged Kearney, ANF Federal Secretary, said nurses were sustaining injuries from contaminated syringes putting them at great risk of contracting hepatitis B or C, or HIV/AIDS.

“Police wear bullet proof vests, fire fighters are given fire-adverse clothing so why shouldn’t nurses be protected from the risks associated with their work? Just like police and firefighters nurses are dedicated to saving lives but this should not be at high risk to themselves,” she said.

“Currently only about half of needlestick and sharp injuries are reported. This means there could be as many as 30,000 incidents each year.”

“We are calling on federal and state governments to introduce consistent rules to prevent needlestick injuries in Australia and fund the introduction of needle-less access devices,” Ms Kearney said.

Estimated costs for public hospitals to provide education and equipment is just $50 million over three years, Ms Kearney said.

A coalition of interested groups has united to call for the mandatory use of safety engineered devices, education of healthcare workers and mandatory reporting of injuries.

The Coalition partners are:

  • Australian Infection Control Association
  • Australian Nursing Federation
  • Associate Prof Cathryn Murphy
  • Medical Technology Association of Australia
  • Royal College of Nursing, Australia
  • Royal College of Pathologists Australasia

“Nurses must be able to work in a safe environment where measures are taken to protect them from risk, especially with something as preventable and yet potentially deadly as needlestick injury.”