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Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O'Neil, LLC
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Needle sticks cause concern about blood-borne illnesses

Medical staff in hospitals and government-run health care facilities are among those at risk of blood-borne diseases caused by needle sticks. According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 385,000 injuries by sharp objects, or "sharps" injuries, happen to hospital workers each year in Illinois and across the country. These injuries especially include needle sticks.

OSHA requires all sharps injuries to be reported, due to the potential severity of the risks. Employees may be exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV or other blood-borne illnesses from a contaminated needle accident. Sharps accidents, according to a report by Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, are often caused by the following:

  • Reaching into, overfilling or reusing a sharps container
  • Recapping needles
  • Breaking or bending needles
  • Getting cut by a broken test vial

Health care workers are at risk of a sharps injury any time they are working with needles or other sharp implements, including while administering vaccinations, performing blood tests and educating trainees. Failing to enforce or practice safety measures can increase the chances of injury; however, most sharps accidents occur when a needle device is unsafe, instead of an employee not being careful. In fact, it is estimated that safer devices could prevent up to 88 percent of hospital sharps injuries.

Health care workers in the government sector are entitled to seek workers' compensation if they become infected with an illness after being stuck by a needle or injured by a blood-contaminated device. A workers' compensation attorney may be able to help during the claims process.

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