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Home health-care workers are at high risk of sharps injuries

As a home health-care worker, you make life at home possible for those to whom you provide care. Many of your job duties may be very physical, such as lifting or moving a client with limited mobility. While this puts you at particular risk of musculoskeletal injuries, sprains and strains, there is another hazard many workers encounter in clients' homes that perhaps no one warned you about.

According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, sharps injuries are high among home-care nurses and aides. 

What are sharps injuries?

Anything that pierces the skin has the potential to be a contaminated sharp; the term can refer to a medical device, but it could refer to almost anything else, too. There are many you may come into contact with at your job:

  • Needles
  • Razors
  • Broken glass
  • Scissors
  • Scalpels

Human bites that break the skin also count as sharps injuries.

Why is thorough sharps-injury training so important?

Maybe you (and your employer) believe that, because you do not dispense medications, you are not at risk. This mistaken belief actually increases your chances of this type of injury. Workers who do not receive bloodborne-pathogens training may not recognize how potentially dangerous a sharps injury is.

The lack of reporting is another factor that increases the risk of a sharps injury. When health-care facilities or agencies report injuries, it helps safety experts within the organization to identify risk factors and create policies and procedures to reduce them. If your employer has not set a reporting protocol in place and trained you in the types of incidents that need reporting, the agency may also have failed to assess what hazards you may encounter and what training you need.

Because your job can become hectic at times, you may have difficulty finding time to stop and document your injury. You may also wonder about whether reporting it will constitute a HIPAA violation if you include relevant details about the client's medical condition. Some home health-care workers have concerns about an employer blaming them for the incident, as well. While these may be valid concerns, it is vital to your own well-being to let your employer know exactly what happened so you can receive the appropriate treatment.

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