Sharps injuries – are you at risk?

Standardised monitoring of sharps injuries is largely overlooked in the Australian healthcare industry even though healthcare workers suffer as many as 18,500 sharps injuries each year. Because not all injuries are reported, it's estimated that actual numbers could be twice the amount.

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August 30, 2018

Tags: Sharps

Standardised monitoring of sharps injuries is largely overlooked in the Australian healthcare industry even though healthcare workers suffer as many as 18,500 sharps injuries each year. Because not all injuries are reported, it’s estimated that actual numbers could be twice the amount.

It’s been more than 10 years since the statistic for needlestick injuries (NSIs) among Australian healthcare workers was identified, and despite calls for policy reform including routine NSI monitoring and mandated use of safety engineered devices (SEDs), Australia remains one of the few developed countries without legislation or jurisdictional directives mandating comprehensive adoption and use of SEDs.

Recent reports by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) indicate that injury rates have not changed over the years and they remain a risk for healthcare workers in Australia. Subpar safety practices are cited to be one of the key factors in contributing to NSIs.

It is important that collectors in Australia meet the Australian and New Zealand standards, at a minimum. Currently, reusable containers are required to be 20N, while single use collectors are required to be at least 12.5N. The International Standard Organisation (ISO) requirements for single use containers are currently 15N and is expected to increase to a minimum of 16N this year. The Canadian Standard is 20N for reusable and single use containers.

A Newton (symbol: N) is a unit of applied force that measures the penetrability of a sharps collector wall. Collectors with lower penetration limits have a higher risk of the plastic wall being penetrated by a sharp. Penetration is only one aspect of safety when it comes to sharps collectors, other considerations include the mouth of the container, its positioning and being able to withstand being dropped.

What is a sharps injury and who is at risk?

A ‘sharp’ is considered any item capable of penetrating human skin or the package in which it is disposed. A sharps injury is caused by a sharp that penetrates or scratches the skin, such as a sharps needle, suture needle, scalpel, etc. Hospital and general practice staff are most likely to experience a needle stick injury, with nurses being most at risk. A sharps stick injury can occur when; depositing a sharp into a collector, if a collector is overfilled, not sealed correctly or if a sharp penetrates the wall.

The proper disposal of sharps is integral for clinical staff, but also the safety of the wider community. The downstream effect of incorrectly disposed sharps has a wide reach, with the potential to effect cleaners and waste management staff, including drivers. If sharps are not disposed of correctly in the community, everyone is at risk.

In a hospital, the majority of all sharps injuries are from hollow-bore needles and the improper disposal of needles. The key concern resulting from a sharps injury is the transmission of blood-borne pathogens. Anyone that is exposed to a sharps injury is required to undergo blood testing to ensure they have not contracted any blood borne infections.

Features and benefits of Sharpsmart

Cleanaway Daniels offers a total waste management approach to medical waste by working with our customers to optimise disposal processes in medical facilities. This includes our Sharpsmart sharps management system which is designed to eliminate sharps injury risk, reduce infection transfer while minimising environmental impact.

By reducing disposable plastic from the sharps waste stream, the Sharpsmart system eliminates over 940,000kgs of disposable sharps containers from landfills each year. Since 1999 it is estimated that the Sharpsmart system has saved more than 20,000 Australian healthcare workers from needlestick injuries.

All Cleanaway Daniels sharps containers also meet world penetration limit standards of 20N.

Sharpsmart system features at a glance

Wide opening
The optimal access geometry of the lid opening with a wide aperture for large/awkward sharps minimises disposal related injuries and restricts hand access to the contained waste.



Check contents level
A Clearview window identifies the fill level of the collector; a feature unique to Cleanaway Daniels collectors.




Eliminates overfilling
Once the collector is full, the in-built safety tray is activated into an upright closed position to restrict access and overfilling.




Maximum strength hardened plastic
The Medical grade hardened plastic casing of the Sharpsmart collector is completely impenetrable by contained sharps. The Sharpsmart collector has been test-proven to an amazing 500 cycles proving its durability, sterility and re-usability.



Cannot be reopened
Side locks are tamper proof when engaged. This safety feature prevents unauthorised access to the container contents.




No leaks
A liquid seal fixed around the rim of the collector lid eliminates leakage of bodily fluids during transport. Container leakage is a common hazard in sharps collectors that are not equipped with a leakproof seal.


Talk to Cleanaway Daniels today to learn how you can help your business prevent sharps injuries.