Avoiding Workplace Needlestick Injuries During Flu Vaccination Season

In pharmacies throughout the United States, flu vaccines are being offered as we move into flu season. While these flu vaccines are intended to protect patients from catching a potentially dangerous strain of influenza, they are also increasing the risk of workplace injury in pharmacies across the Carolinas and the rest of the United States.

Our Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys urge those working in the healthcare profession to exercise care to avoid needle sticks this upcoming flu season. We also remind those in the healthcare industry that many needle stick injuries are preventable if the proper precautions are taken. 1285558_injection_needle_macro_2.jpg

The Dangers of Needlestick Workplace Injuries During Flu Vaccine Season
Employees working at pharmacy chains are at risk of suffering needle stick injuries during flu season. Environmental Expert published a December 18, 2012 article in which they summarized data from NIOSH as well as other information about needlestick workplace injuries. According to the article:

  • From 2000 to 2011, 31 different pharmacy locations reported 33 different needlestick injuries. While this may not seem like a lot of injuries, Environmental Expert also indicated that many such injuries go underreported.
  • 24 of the needlestick workplace injuries that were reported occurred between September and January. This is the period during which flu vaccines are administered. A full 73 percent of the needlestick injuries, therefore, occurred during flu vaccine season.
  • The rate of needlestick injuries at major pharmacies generally ranges from 0 to 3.62 for each 100,000 vaccines given.
  • Injuries due to needlesticks were most likely to occur after the needle had been used to administer the vaccine to patients but before the needle had been disposed of.

When a worker is struck by a needle, this puts the worker at risk of developing serious medical problems as a result of the workplace injury. For example, a person who is injured at work by a needlestick could develop HIV, tuberculosis or herpes. The Centers for Disease Control also reports that around 20 other pathogens could also be transmitted to a worker as a result of exposure from a needlestick.

Staying Safe from Needlestick Injuries
While Environmental Expert focuses on pharmacies since they administer many flu vaccines during mobile clinics and other events during flu season, pharmacists are not the only ones at risk of potentially being harmed at work by being stuck by a needle. In fact, CDC estimates indicate that as many as 385,000 needlestick injuries occur each year among hospital healthcare workers.

This means that pharmacy workers as well as other healthcare providers all need to exercise caution when using needles to administer vaccines or other medications to patients. Taking your time when using a needle to administer a vaccine, as well as using heavy-duty utility gloves to handle used needles, can both help you to stay safe and avoid this dangerous type of workplace injury.

The North Carolina Nurses Association also has a position statement on safety in the workplace that addresses the issue of needlestick injuries and that provides important information on how to make healthcare workplaces safer for nurses and other care providers. This position statement can give workers some additional advice on how to avoid needlestick injuries and other risks in the healthcare field.

If you or your loved one has been injured on-the-job, contact the Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case. Call 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Keeping Young Workers Safe on the Job in North Carolina, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 8, 2012

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