Being stuck with a needle or a sharp that has already been used potentially exposes the hurt person to infectious diseases, especially bloodborne viruses, that the patient may have. Contaminated needles can inject hazardous fluids through the skin and into the body. Even a small amount of infectious fluid is enough to spread some diseases. Cuts in the skin made by sharps allow the same kind of contact of blood and fluids.
Hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which can develop into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can all be transmitted by needlestick and sharp injuries. The degree of risk varies by which pathogen was involved and how advanced the disease was in the patient.
Other kinds of diseases that can be contracted through needlesticks and sharps include bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms such as:
- Cutaneous gonorrhea
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Streptococcus pyogenes
Workers who may be at risk for needlestick and sharps injuries include healthcare workers, correctional healthcare workers, first responders, veterinarians, and maintenance and waste workers.
The best way to protect employees from a work-related injury is through prevention. Eliminating risk by reducing needles used for medication delivery, specimen collection, and as many procedures as possible is ideal. Where this is not possible, the following guidelines are necessary to prevent injury.
- Effective Disposal Systems – This is a crucial step in protecting workers. Wide mouth, puncture-proof containers should be readily available where needles and sharps are used to ensure safe disposal. When they are three-quarters full, containers should be sealed and disposed of according to local regulations for biomedical waste.
- Equipment Design – Choose equipment designed with safety in minds such as protected needle devices or needle-free systems that use self-sealing ports and syringes. Devices with passive safety systems are more effective than those with safety mechanisms that need to be activated.
- Training – Staff should be trained on the hazards of using needles and sharps and on the use of safety equipment. Studies show that when both conventional and safety devices are available, nurses will often choose a conventional device that they are more familiar with and used to use, which puts them at greater risk of injury.
- Work Practices – Safety controls should be implemented to reduce the risk of injury. These include avoiding passing sharps hand-to-hand and using tools to grasp and unload needles and scalpels. Staff should be monitored to ensure compliance with the disposal system.
If you test positive for a disease acquired from a needlestick or sharps injury that happened at your place of work, your employer may be liable for the cost of your medical care and monitoring, as well as your wage loss benefits, if you are unable to continue working. Even if you are not infected, but were forced to miss work while waiting for the results of testing, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. If your injury was caused by faulty safety equipment, damages may be recovered from the manufacturer through a third-party claim.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of Gross & Kenny, LLP Help Workers Infected by Needlestick Injuries
If you have experienced a needlestick or sharps injury on the job, contact an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer of Gross & Kenny, LLP. Call 267-589-0090 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.