Research suggests that healthcare workers suffer from over two million needlestick injuries per year, with the prevalence of injuries being highest among dentists.1
As such, it’s important for professionals to keep on top of sharps safety as well as making sure that everyone in the team understands why it is necessary to follow the correct waste management protocols for these items.
The dangers of needlestick injuries
Data suggests that over 50% of dental professionals and students of the profession had suffered at least one serious needlestick injury in 2019.2 The biggest concern surrounding needlestick injuries is that they can lead to transmission of some potentially life-changing illnesses such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.3
While these conditions are at the very least manageable in the modern day, there is still the potential for considerable emotional distress when someone finds out they have contracted one of them. Furthermore, any individual who has contracted one of these diseases may not be immediately aware that they are carrying it. Therefore, it is essential that whenever professionals do suffer from a needlestick injury that they seek medical attention in order to prevent further transmission.
When it comes to minimising sharps injuries occurring, the best guidance is to ensure that you know where sharps items are at all times and never leave them unattended. Sheathing syringes is another effective way to help prevent accidental injury. It’s also good advice to not break or snap needles before disposal, as attempting to do so can considerably raise the chances of incurring an injury.
Safely disposing of sharps waste
Sharps waste must be disposed of correctly in order to further lower the chance of needlestick injuries, and by proxy, the potential transmission of bloodborne diseases.
Depending on what the needle has been used for, sharps waste can be categorised under different colours in the Department of Health’s colour coding guide for best practice waste disposal.
For example, needles used to supply botulinum toxin injections are typically classed as purple waste (Cytostatic/Cytotoxic), while those used to administer anaesthetic are classed as yellow waste (Clinical Highly Infectious). It’s necessary to make sure that your team is aware of these different waste streams and how sharps waste may be categorised differently, so that they can always dispose of sharps in the correct manner.
At the time of writing, over half of the UK population has received at least one dose of Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination, meaning that sharps waste is at an all-time high.4 While this is unlikely to impact the level of sharps waste being produced in dental practices, it does have a potential effect on the waste management services you use.
It’s important that you make sure that the service provider you select can cope with the increased demand for waste disposal being seen at this time, alongside providing your practice with efficient and safe waste disposal.
We are able to offer dental practices a bespoke sharps disposal service, meaning that you can guarantee that you are always disposing of sharps in a safe and compliant manner. Initial Medical supplies a vast array of sharps containers, in all sizes and for all applicable coloured waste streams.
We also have extra products to promote sharps safety for dental professionals, such as the InSafe Sharps Safety System – an innovative device that has been developed to eliminate the chance of needlestick injuries during administration.
1 Bouya, S. et al. Global Prevalence and Device Related Causes of Needle Stick Injuries Among Health Care Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Ann Glob Health. 2020; 86(1): 35.
2 Dental Nursing. Needlestick Injuries and You. Link: https://www.dental-nursing.co.uk/features/needlestick-injuries-and-you#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20another%20study%20found,individuals%20of%20all%20skill%20levels. [Last accessed May 21].
3 Britannica. Bloodborne Disease. Link: https://www.britannica.com/science/bloodborne-disease [Last accessed May 21].
4 Gov.uk Coronavirus in the UK. Vaccinations in United Kingdom. Link: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/vaccinations [Last accessed May 21].