Update: June 30, 2016
An article in the May/June issue of Patient Safety and Quality Health Magazine provides an example of the risks related to traditional sharps containers. Drug Diversion: Partially Filled Vials and Syringes in Sharps Containers Are Key Source of Problems. The article shares the story of a nursing assistant with a history of addiction.... she had been using discarded drugs and died after mistakenly self-administering a neuromuscular blocking agent. The article also presents alarming statistics and safe practice recommendations.
As a safety officer and risk manager I'm familiar with the risks of sharps in healthcare settings, especially needles which are widely used to draw blood/fluids or administer medications. Nurses who were stuck placing a syringe into a nearly full sharps container or while juggling multiple items and the cover of the container are not too uncommon. Over the years, I've also seen sharps containers in public places, such as, airports and casino bathrooms. My first reaction was "what is that doing here", but then I remember about the prevalence of diabetes and other chronic conditions that may require self testing and administered medications. This then leads me to wonder how many people have actually tried to tamper with and get to the contents of these easily accessible sharps containers.
So, I was intrigued when I recently learned about the NeedleShark sharps shreader. I believe it is an innovation to current sharps disposal options and infectious waste management with some promising returns. According to the website, you simply drop the sharp in, wave your hand over the motion sensor, and the sharps are automatically reduced to harmless particles. The shredded sharps are sterilized and in some instances, the contents can be disposed of as black bag waste after sterilization.
Why is this important? The Center for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 41% of injuries to staff occurs after the sharp had been used or while it was being disposed of in a sharps container. Needle sticks can transmit serious diseases, such as, HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and this requires follow-up testing and prophylaxis. The cost can significantly exceed approximately $3,500 for testing and prophylaxis when a diagnosis is made and liability and worker’s compensation costs are incurred.
If you are considering NeedleShark as an addition, or alternative, to existing disposal containers let me know why by leaving a comment. If you are using it, I’d love to hear what you think about it and the benefits you have actually realized.