Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology

Original Article

Issues in Understanding the Impact of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act on Hospital Sharps Injuries

Elayne Kornblatt Phillipsa1a2 c1, Mark Conawaya3, Ginger Parkera4, Jane Perrya4 and Janine Jaggera1

a1 Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

a2 School of Nursing, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

a3 Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

a4 Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Abstract

Objective. Measuring the effect of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) is challenging. No agreement exists on a common denominator for calculating injury rates. Does it make a difference? How are the law and safety-engineered devices related? What is the effect on injuries and costs? This study examines those issues in assessing the impact of the legislation on hospital worker percutaneous injuries.

Methods. Using a historic prospective design, we analyzed injury data from 85 hospitals. Injury rates were calculated per 100 full-time equivalents, 100 staffed beds, and 100 admissions each year from 1995 to 2005. We compared changes for each denominator. We measured the proportion of the injury rate attributed to safety-engineered devices. Finally, we estimated a national change in injuries and associated costs.

Results. For all denominators, a precipitous drop in injury rates of greater than one-third (P<.001) occurred in 2001, immediately following the legislation. The decrease was sustained through 2005. Concomitant with the decrease in rates, the proportion of injuries from safety-engineered devices nearly tripled (P <.001) across all denominators. We estimated annual reductions of more than 100,000 sharps injuries at a cost savings of $69-$415 million.

Conclusions. While the data cannot demonstrate cause and effect, the evidence suggests a reduction in hospital worker injury rates related to the NSPA, regardless of denominator. It also suggests an association between the increase in safety-engineered devices and the reduction in overall injury rates. The decreases observed translate into significant reductions in injuries and associated costs.

(Received December 03 2012)

(Accepted April 30 2013)

Correspondence

c1 University of Virginia, School of Nursing, PO Box 800782, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0782 (ekp2e@virginia.edu)