A needlestick or a cut from a contaminated scapel can lead
to infection from hepatitis B virus (HBV) or human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes AIDS.
Although few cases of AIDS have been documented from
occupational exposure, approximately 8,700 health care
workers each year contract hepatitis B. About 200 will
die as a result. The new OSHA standard covering
bloodborne pathogens specifies measures to reduce these
risks of infection.
The best way to prevent cuts and sticks is to
minimize contact with sharps. That means disposing of
them immediately after use. Puncture-resistant containers
must be available nearby to hold contaminated sharps--
either for disposal or, for reusable sharps, later
decontamination for re-use. When reprocessing
contaminated reusable sharps, employees must not reach
by hand into the holding container. Contaminated sharps
must never be sheared or broken.
Recapping, bending, or removing needles is
permissible only if there is no feasible alternative or if
required for a specific medical procedure such as blood
gas analysis. If recapping, bending, or removal is
necessary, workers must use either a mechanical device or
a one-handed technique. If recapping is essential--for
example, between multiple injections for the same patient-
-employees must avoid using both hands to recap.
Employees might recap with a one-handed "scoop"
technique, using the needle itself to pick up the cap,
pushing cap and sharp together against a hard surface to
ensure a tight fit. Or they might hold the cap with tongs or
forceps to place it on the needle.
Containers for used sharps must be puncture
resistant. The sides and the bottom must be leakproof.
They must be labeled or color coded red to ensure that
everyone knows the contents are hazardous. Containers
for disposable sharps must have a lid, and they must be
maintained upright to keep liquids and the sharps inside.
Employees must never reach by hand into
containers of contaminated sharps. Containers for