JCAHO Issues National Alert on Needlestick Injuries Among Health Care Workers
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations this week issued in its Sentinel Event Alert a national warning to health care workers to keep them from being exposed to HIV and hepatitis B and C through accidental needlestick and sharps injuries. The CDC estimates that more than 600,000 nurses and other health care professionals experience needlestick and sharps injuries each year, with patient injuries occurring "less frequent[ly]." According to JCAHO, the incidence of these injuries can be greatly reduced using safety devices and prevention programs. The 1999 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health publication Preventing Needlestick Injuries in Health Care Settings lists several prevention strategies, including using devices with safety features; analyzing sharps injuries at the workplace to identify hazards and trends; ensuring that health care workers are properly trained in safe needle use and disposal; and establishing procedures to encourage reporting and timely follow-up of all sharps-related injuries. According to JCAHO, all health care organizations should have an established needlestick prevention program to comply with the 1991 bloodborne pathogen standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and should follow the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act that took effect on July 17. This law requires employers to review their exposure control plans each year to keep up to date on new technology to prevent injuries; involve non-managerial workers in evaluating and selecting safety engineering devices; and maintain an injury log noting the type and brand of the device involved and the location and description of the incident. In April 2002, JCAHO will begin assessing organizational compliance with the new law (JCAHO, Sentinel Event Alert, August 2001).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.