How to Avoid Needlestick and Other Sharps Injuries at Your Veterinary Practice

It is often said that, “safety doesn’t happen by accident.” How many times have you been a part of or witnessed a workplace accident? Probably more than you’d care to admit. Even with the shifting landscape, our veterinary hospitals will never be without people, and where there’s people, there will always be accidents. 

Some essential items in the veterinary workplace, such as needles, scalpel blades and other suturing materials, may pose significant risk of injury. When a needlestick injury occurs, chemical and biological substances may be introduced through the wound. It is essential that all veterinary clinic and hospital personnel be trained on how to prevent needlestick and other sharps injuries. For example, communication between a restrainer and a technician collecting a blood sample from a patient is vital. If the one restraining is losing a safe hold or the restraint of the patient, both the patient and the technician are at risk of injury.. 

Additionally, the risk of using a needle does not end after its purpose is complete. One of the most common causes of needlestick injuries is during the mistake of recapping a needle before disposing of it. The needle could miss the cap, or even pierce through the plastic cap and into the medical professional’s hand or finger. Veterinary staff should be trained in the proper use and disposal of all sharps materials, and the next steps if an injury occurs. The AVMA recommends voluntary compliance with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

As you can see, there are countless risks of injury within the veterinary workplace, but all are preventable. Between knowledge, awareness, and communication, all levels of veterinary professionals can keep themselves, their peers, clients and patients safe, as well as prevent future occurrences. Remember, the best cure is prevention!