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Hospital Healthcare Europe
Hospital Healthcare Europe

Selecting the right safety product to help reduce the risk of needlestick injury

5 June, 2009  

Needlestick injury is a common injury but it can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. So to protect healthcare staff it is essential to deploy devices with appropriate safety features. There are various criteria to consider

Louise Cresswell MBA MSC

Business Development – retained consultant with Safety Medical Devices Ltd

Over the past few years increased awareness of the risks  associated with needlestick injury has led to an expansion
of the range of new safety devices being available. It is therefore important that users are aware what to consider when selecting a safety device.

Products available include those:

  • With an add-on piece such as a sheath, shield or cap that covers the needle, requiring the user to slide or flip the safety cover into place after use.
  • Requiring the user to manually retract the safety mechanism, withdrawing the needle into the barrel of the device and locking it into position.
  • Which offer automatic retraction of theneedle into the device following use.

ECRI recommends that a safety device should reduce the risk of needlestick injury to the user or other downstream worker, both during and after use and during and after disposal.[1]

Device design
The safety feature of the device should not obstruct the visibility of the sharp during use and should be integral to the device. The device should either require no assembly or be easy to assemble.

A clear and unmistakeable change should occur when the safety feature is activated. This could be either visible or audible so the user is aware the safety feature has been activated. The exposed sharp should be completely contained after use and prior to disposal, ensuring the device is single use only.

The device should be able to be used with a variety of products from other suppliers and be able to be disposed of in a variety of sharps containers. There should not be an increase in the  waste volume of safety devices when compared with conventional non-safety product waste.

Ease of use

The technique for using the device should require no significant changes to those used to operate a standard non-safety product. The device should not require extensive training in order to be operated correctly and should not take more time to use than a standard non-safety product.

The safety device should be easy to operate for both left- and right-handed users, and a variety of hand sizes, and should be easy to activate under all conditions, such as when wearing gloves with uncooperative patients.

The safety device should be capable of being activated using a one-handed technique as this can reduce the chance of accidental injury to the other hand and reduces the chance that the safety mechanism is not activated.[1]

The safety device should be activated with the users’ hand remaining behind the needle during engagement of the safety feature, and it should minimise the risk of exposure to the patient’s blood.

The safety device should cause no or little patient  discomfort when compared with a standard non-safety device.

1. ECRI. Sharps safety and needlestick prevention. 2nd ed. 2003. Available from: