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Sharps containers reduce injuries


Clinical bottom line

A relatively simple scheme to improve sharps disposal resulted in fewer injuries, and with lower overall costs.


IB Hatcher. Reducing sharps injuries among health care workers. A sharps container quality improvement project. Joint Commission Journal of Quality Improvement 2002 28: 410-414.


This was a study that used the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) approach to reducing sharps injuries by introducing improved sharps containers at a hospital in Tennessee.

This was followed by a second cycle to measure injury rates and staff satisfaction.


In the period before the introduction of the new disposal system the injury rate from disposal of needles was 24 a year. In the period after their introduction it was 14 a year, despite an increase of over 10% in the workforce.

The increased acquisition cost of the new boxes was $10,000 a year. Estimated savings from reduced testing and prophylaxis against hepatitis and HIV infection was $72,000 a year, making a saving of $62,000 a year. Cost of employee days lost from work were not included in the cost calculation.


This was a relatively simple scheme, but one that was rather well done. there were several times where this scheme might have stalled, but each time sensible action overcame difficulties. better safety came with reduced overall costs.