“Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.”
With the above definition in mind, do healthcare facilities really use the above criteria in making decisions on how much or how little is mandatory to protect their staff? The same could be asked of the healthcare professionals themselves. Carrying the point further, is it just outer garments that matter? Could and should devices that eliminate exposure to blood borne pathogens also be considered a part of the PPE protocols in hospitals, clinics, and private offices, where exposure to bodily fluids is a real possibility?
Looking at EPINET data from 2019 and 2018,
(https://internationalsafetycenter.org/use-epinet/) exposure to bloodborne pathogens remains a high risk to caregivers. Whether needle sticks, scalpel blade cuts, and or suture needle sticks, all represent a danger to: the user, the hospital system, society in general as the costs to treat is very high indeed. The argument here has to be that PPE products are not just limited to the obvious face mask and or gloves; but must be carried forward into the post-use sharps category, and allowances are made to ensure exposure be reduced to a minimum. With Covid-19, an awareness of the dangers to caregiver exposure, the general population mostly accepted and got on board with protections such as masks in the general non-medical environment. Spreading Covid-19 has become a daily topic of conversation. While most people recover in a relatively short space of time, those caregivers that contract HIV, Hepatitis C and any of the other 25 bloodborne pathogens, do not. This can lead to a lifelong problem of continued medication and counseling to stay alive. We are in a situation where, as an analogy, half the highway is paved and the other half a dirt road. We all want to drive on pavement and yet half of us will be doing the same speed on dirt with outcomes that are predictable.
OSHA requires sharps injuries to be taken seriously. An obvious statement, yet the requirement for single-handed blade removal, single handed needle removers remain largely ignored. If the argument is valid to use face masks, shields, gloves etc., then certainly removing bloodborne pathogen exposure should be of equal importance. It is hard to accept that the Flu is the only danger to caregivers out there when so much has been written and experienced on exposure to other pathogens in the hospital setting. Single-handed devices that remove needles and scalpel blades are PPE devices and it is long overdue that these devices become minimum standards of care. OSHA requires it by definition, why isn’t the caregiver community the following suit? After all, the hospital can mandate safety, but only you can practice it! Have devices that reduce exposure become a part of your PPE protocols for your sake and your families. After all, it is your life, why allow others to make decisions on how to protect it.
NEWS: ORTODAY Magazine will be publishing an Interview with Dr. Michael Sinnott, an expert in sharps injuries and their avoidance, in its September issue. This is worth looking out as a state of the art piece.