Needle-stick injuries at work
One of the many safety concerns for health professionals is the likelihood and risk of coming into contact with deadly viruses through needle-stick injuries. In acountry that is faced with the burden of diseases some of which are contracted through blood, needle stick injuries pose a great risk and danger to healthcare workers. There are quite a number of infectious diseases that occur through blood transmission which healthcare workers may contract whilst on duty due to needle-stick injuries. While healthcare professionals undergo intense training on how to use injections, the state of the environments they work under sometimes make them prone to needle-stick injuries while working.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 states that ‘every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees’ (Occupational Health and Safety Act 85, 1993). Whilst employers are obliged by law through this piece of legislation to provide a safe working environment, it is also essential for healthcare workers to exercise caution when dealing with patients to avoid contracting infectious diseases.
Definition of key words
Needle-stick injuries: defined as an accidental puncture of the skin by a needle (www.toolingu.com)
- The unsafe working conditions that sometimes expose health professionals to the risk of contacting infectious diseases exist especially in the public sector despite the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety policies.
- The disease burden that brings about infectious diseases some of which are transmitted through the blood
- That whilst measures are often taken by employer, sometimes Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is not available in most public health institutions
DENOSA believes that
- Employers of healthcare professionals should provide safe working environments as per the prescripts of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85, 1993
- Needle-stick injuries most of which are brought about by unsafe working environments may expose health professionals to deadly diseases
- Apart from the employer, health workers have a responsibility of protecting themselves from needle-stick injuries
- Employers of healthcare professionals who do not adhere to the prescripts of Occupational Health and Safety policies should be held accountable for injuries that occur at work
- The employer should ensure that there are mechanisms in place in cases where health professionals have encountered needle-stick injuries
- When a needle-stick injury has occurred at work, the health professional should report this immediately so as to be assisted accordingly
- The employer should provide facilities to assist health professionals who have come into contact with infectious diseases whilst at work
Most infectious and deadly diseases are transmitted through the blood. Health professionals are therefore at risk of contracting these diseases whilst at work through needle-stick injuries. Whilst employers are required by law to provide a safe working environment, healthcare professionals also have a responsibility to ensure that they exercise caution especially when dealing with patients who have symptoms of infectious diseases.
Health Professions Council of South Africa. 2008. Guidelines for good practice in the health care professions. Pretoria South Africa
National Department of Labour. 1993. Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993. Pretoria. South Africa
Public Health and Welfare Bargaining Council, 2001. Resolution No. 3 of 2001. Pretoria. South Africa