News

Nurses and midwives bear the brunt of sharps injuries

Monday 14th October, 2013

Nurses and midwives suffer the highest rate of needlestick and sharps injuries among Australian healthcare workers each year.

Needlestick and other sharps injuries remain the most common and potentially most dangerous injuries that face nurses and midwives in Australia.

Estimated 180,000 reports of needlestick and sharps injuries to nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers occurring each year

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said while there are an estimated 180,000 reports of needlestick and sharps injuries to nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers occurring each year across the nation – the figure could actually be much higher.

“With approximately half of all injuries not reported, this means the actual number of injuries to nurses and other healthcare workers could be as high as 36,000 cases a year,” she said.

“We’re obviously very concerned about the potential harm to nurses, exposing them to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B or C.”

Renewed calls to equip Australia’s public hospitals with safe needle use education and safety equipment

As part of National Safe Work Australia month, the ANMF and the Alliance for Sharps Safety and Needlestick Prevention in Healthcare have renewed calls for state and federal jurisdictions to mandate the use of safety engineered devices (SEMDs).

The ANMF estimates it would cost $50 million to equip Australia’s public hospitals with safe needle use education and safety equipment but only a small number of hospitals have introduced the safety devices.

“We are pleased that some individual hospitals are making an effort to improve safety for nurses through their own practices but overall, there continues to be slow progress in rolling-out safety devices through workplaces for nurses,” Ms Thomas said.

“Employers have an obligation to ensure safety in the workplace.”

The ANMF also wants conventional needles to be replaced where possible with lock syringes or retractable syringes.

Employers need to be reminded of their obligations to health and safety legislation

Ms Thomas said while it was important to educate and train nurses about the every-day dangers of needles and other sharps, employers also need to take vital preventative action.

“Employers also need to be reminded of their obligations to health and safety legislation in developing and implementing safety control plans for nurses and healthcare workers,” she said.

“Needle disposal containers should be placed close to where nurses and midwives are carrying out procedures and the containers should never be overfilled.

“Needles should never be recapped. Nurses must always report any needle or sharps injury.”

Australia has no nationally mandated approach to the utilisation of safety devices to prevent needlestick injuries to nurses and other healthcare workers

Ms Thomas said unlike other western countries, including the United States and Canada, Australia has no nationally mandated approach to the utilisation of safety devices to prevent needlestick injuries to nurses and other healthcare workers.

“We continue to call on Federal and State Governments to work together with key stakeholders to ensure that protocols are aligned with the mandatory use of safety engineered devices and education of healthcare workers – so that Australia is brought into line with other countries.”

Alliance chair Professor Cathryn Murphy said every needlestick or sharps injury at work was a foreseeable hazard to healthcare workers.

“International experience has proven that the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens from a needlestick or sharps injury can be eliminated through the mandatory use of safety engineered devices, education of healthcare workers and mandatory reporting of injuries.”