EVS for Hospitals Must Stay Sharp About Sharps
Environmental Services (EVS) for hospitals and other healthcare housekeeping services can’t afford to let their guard down when it comes to sharps.
EVS workers and other staff in hospitals suffer an estimated 385,000 needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries annually. This does not include similar injuries that occur in other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and urgent-care clinics. Sharps injuries have been associated with the transmission of more than 20 pathogens, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The CDC estimates that hepatitis C virus (HCV) is responsible for the deaths of more baby boomers than 60 other infectious diseases combined.
Sharps Encountered Most by EVS for Hospitals
Sharps that hospital EVS providers encounter most often include:
- Razor blades
- Metal wires
- Glass items.
When disposed of improperly, needles can injure workers who encounter them unexpectedly, for instance, when they are emptying the trash. Yet the list above highlights that not all sharps might be initially recognized as dangerous. A staple from a Chinese food container from an infected patient’s room can transmit pathogens as surely as used razor blades on a bathroom sink, a needle lost in patient linens, or shards of glass from a broken bottle.
It’s the Law
As Infection Control Today reminds us, protecting workers against sharps is not an option, it is federal law: “In 1991, OSHA passed the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, requiring employers to develop a written exposure control plan, implement universal precautions, provide personal protective equipment, use preventive engineering and work practices controls, and prohibit bending, recapping, and removing contaminated needles and sharps.”
Sharp Advice for EVS for Hospitals
There are several precautions healthcare housekeeping services must take to prevent sharp injuries from occurring, including those listed below.
Gloves. As for any EVS hospital task, gloves should be worn when sharps may be present. While gloves are not foolproof protection against sharps, they can help deter a direct puncture of the skin and protect against pathogens on other areas of the object.
Containers. EVS providers should be sure there is a sharps disposal container nearby where sharps such as needles will be used. Sharps disposal containers should be large enough to accommodate the normal sharps used in the area. OSHA mandates that every sharps container must be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol and the word “biohazard” or be color-coded red. The agency also calls for sharp containers to be:
- Closable with a top or flap
- Upright at all times
- Not too full
- Replaced routinely.
Handling. EVS providers should never insert their hand or fingers in a sharps container to push something farther down or remove it. If a sharp is found outside of the sharps container, it should only be picked up if it can be grasped by the non-sharp end. Otherwise tongs should be used to remove and dispose of it in the sharps container. OSHA stipulates that contaminated broken glass must not be picked up by hand, but rather be cleaned up using tools such as a brush and dust pan, tongs, or forceps.
Linens. Due to the high turnover of patients, especially during a emergency crisis, sharps such as needles can inadvertently be left behind in patient linens when an IV is removed or blood is taken, for example. In some cases, patients can twist or turn and unintentionally remove an IV that goes undiscovered. It is also not unheard of for sharps to show up in “clean” laundry. It is up to EVS for hospital workers to protect themselves from possible contact when they are removing patient linens and healthcare housekeeping services that provide laundry should also be trained in proper handling of linen that might contain sharps. If sharps are discovered in linen, the following procedures are recommended:
- Tools: Use grasping devices such as tongs to pull sharps from linen. Never use an ungloved hand. This is true of any sharps found on uniforms, clothing, or other fabrics.
- Shake and separate: While shaking soiled linen is not normally recommended, if a sharp cannot be removed with a tool, gently shake the linen to loosen the sharp. Once the sharp is loosened from the fabric, remove and dispose of sharp properly using tongs or another pickup tool
Healthcare Housekeeping Services Near You
Are you looking for a hospital EVS job in LA County, Ventura County, Antelope Valley, Orange County, San Bernardino, or other areas in Southern California? Read what these employees say about working at Servicon and find out more about careers with Servicon.
Interested in working for Servicon?
Interested in learning more about our services?
We help produce higher HCAHPS scores, lower HAIs, and faster throughput, which translates into more budget dollars to spend on your business of saving lives.
We invite you to to find out more about Servicon’s cleaning services for complex facilities and to schedule a free assessment.