Utilizing Safer Sharps Devices


The CDC estimates that 62-88% of sharps injuries could be prevented by using needles with safety devices on them.  Most needlestick injuries result from unsafe needle devices rather than carelessness by health care workers.

Is your practice using an appropriate safer sharps device? Read on to learn more.


What is a Safer Sharps device?

Safer sharps devices have controls built into them to prevent sharps injuries.  Safer Sharps devices come in various types; some devices have a protective shield over the sharp and some do not use a needle at all. 



How do I know what types of safety features and devices to use?

Not all needlestick injuries are preventable, but they can be reduced by using safer sharps devices containing needles with built-in safety features or other devices that eliminate the use of needles altogether.  Below are the different types of safety features a practice can utilize for their needles.

  • Needleless devices


  • Passive safety features: Passive safety features remain in effect before, during and after use.  The safety feature is built in and can not be removed.  This is the preferred type of safety feature on a needle.


  • Active devices: Active devices require the worker to activate the safety mechanism themselves.  This feature is external to the device and must be attached to the point of use.  These are dependent on employee compliance to be successful.



OSHA does not require employers to utilize specific safety devices, but does require that employers evaluate the effectiveness of existing controls and review the feasibility of instituting more advanced controls.  OSHA requires that employers have a written plan as well as engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.  An example of an engineering control are safer sharp devices.


The FDA is responsible for clearing medical devices for marketing in the U.S.  It is recommended by the FDA to utilize safer sharp devices with:

  • A fixed safety feature that provides a barrier between hands and needle
  • Safety devices that are an integral part of the device
  • Needle devices that are simple to use; require little or no training to be used effectively



Before implementing new safer sharps devices, the practice should take into consideration the needs of the primary users (your employees) and the needs of patients who must continue to receive safe, efficient, and comfortable care.  While it may be inconvenient to switch to using safer sharp devices, it protects your employees from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.



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