Getting to the Point on Needlestick Prevention

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was enacted in 2000 during the Clinton administration and requires healthcare employers to investigate and implement “sharps with engineered sharps injury protection” or SESIP with annual documentation and employee input.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 348,000 needlesticks happen to hospital workers each year with an additional 590,000 needlestick incidents happening to non-hospital healthcare workers. The exposure control plan required under OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard is required to be updated yearly with documentation of employee training on new devices and procedures.

Today, there are many so-called "safe" or "safer" needle devices available on the market with either an active or passive safety feature or mechanism. An active mechanism requires the user to manually manipulate a needle cover typically with a change of grip on the needle device or use of the other hand to maneuver the cover. This need to use the other hand introduces an opportunity for a stick injury. In contrast, a passive design with a retractable needle mechanism is activated with pressure applied on the syringe plunger. This action usually does not require a change of grip and excludes the use of the other hand. This passive, retractable technology meets the need for a safely-engineered device.

Choosing a safe needle device must involve the workers who use them while taking into account error reducing measures such as:

  • Involve no or minimal additional manual manipulation
  • Involve no or minimal extra steps
  • Must be obvious on mechanism of activation
  • Must be natural and consistent with the previous action(s)
  • Must be easy to learn and remember

For more information, visit the International Sharps Injury Prevention Society's website at and the Retractable Technologies, Inc.'s VanishPoint website at

Source: Human Factors Analysis of Needle Safety Devices, William A. Hyman, Journal of Clinical Engineering, Fall 2002