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Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2014 Feb 15;24(1):45-56. doi: 10.11613/BM.2014.007. eCollection 2014.

The importance of implementing safe sharps practices in the laboratory setting in Europe.

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Infezioni Emergenti e Riemergenti e Centro di Riferimento AIDS, Department of Epidemiology and Pre-Clinical Research, National Institute for Infectious Diseases L. Spallanzani IRCCS, Rome, Italy.
Groupe d'Etude sur le Risque d'Exposition au Sang (GERES), Université Paris Diderot, Hôpital Bichat-Claude Bernard, Paris, France.


Healthcare workers are at risk of sharps injuries and subsequent infection from more than 40 bloodborne pathogens or species. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) together account for the vast majority of cases. The Directive 2010/32/EU "Prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector", issued to protect workers from these risks, requires an integrated approach to prevention including awareness-raising, education, training, elimination of unnecessary needles, safe procedures for sharps use and disposal, banning of recapping, vaccination, use of personal protective equipment, provision of safety-engineered devices, and appropriate surveillance, monitoring, response and follow-up. As laboratories represent a high-risk setting both in the preanalytical and analytical phase, we reviewed accidents and prevention in this setting in the light of the new legislation. Phlebotomy is the procedure carrying the highest risk of exposure and infection, involved in 30-50% of HIV and HCV cases detected in nationwide systems following accidental blood exposures implemented since the 1990s in Italy and France. In laboratories, problems in the management of sharps containers, recapping, needle disassembly by hand and blood transfer from syringes into tubes were observed and accounted for two-thirds of injuries. These accidents could be reduced through education and monitoring of behaviours, and introduction of medical devices incorporating safety-engineered protection mechanisms with appropriate training. Laboratory staff should be immunized against HBV, and know policies and procedures for the post-exposure management and prophylaxis. The management commitment to safety is crucial to ensure the necessary support to these changes.


accident prevention; bloodborne pathogens; laboratories; needlestick injuries; occupational exposure

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