Sharps Safety in the Operating Room Environment

Roy H. Constantine  PA-C, MPH, PhD, FCCM, DFAAPA

Daniel Vetrosky, PhD, PA-C, DFAAPA

Former CSPS Representatives and Chair

Article originally printed in Sutureline: Mar/Apr 2014 p. 9

The CDC estimates approximately 385,000 sharps injuries occur annually in the hospital environment. This amounts to greater than 1,000 injuries per day. This data does not encompass the other settings where these events also occur. A direct concern is the increased risk for bloodborne virus transmission and the associated quality and cost ramifications. (CDC)

The effort of multiple stakeholders can be seen in annual events that focus on minimizing harm across the continuum of care among healthcare personnel. Dr. Mary Foley PhD, RN – Chairperson of “Safe in Common” (SIC) and Director of the Center for Nursing Research and Innovation at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing along with other distinguished colleagues have provided online conferences to help “strengthen the Federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, raise awareness of needle stick safety, and utilize safer engineering controls to protect healthcare personnel from unnecessary needle stick injuries.”  The importance in raising awareness in needle stick safety is imperative (Foley).

The AORN has and continues to provide guidance for the interdisciplinary team to implement risk reduction strategies and apply them for surgical and invasive procedures. As Mary J. Ogg MSN, RN, CNOR (a sharps expert with the Association of perioperative Registered Nurses) notes, all that is needed is for team members to see the data to be convinced that adapted practices can decrease the incidence of sharps injuries and needle sticks (Fields). AORN resources have helped many to overcome barriers to compliance with sharps safety protocols (AORN).

There is much in-depth research in the area of sharps safety. In one study, a review of RCTs and meta-analysis of RCTs found several interventions helpful in overcoming sharps safety compliance barriers. The intent was to look at the use of safety scalpels and their relationship to reduction in the risk of injury. This review supported risk reductions with double gloving and the use of blunt suture needles. There was additional evidence that passing a tray in a neutral zone was of benefit, but there was insufficient evidence to support the regulated use of safety scalpels at this time (DeGirolamo).

As a member of the CSPS the AASPA is actively participating in a “Sharps Safety Campaign.” The AORN has developed a two-year sharps safety campaign strategy that will decrease the number of sharps injuries in the operating room. To be successful CSPS members will work collaboratively to promote educational tools and resources that can be used by each member of the surgical team. The four focus areas will include Engineered Sharps Injury Protection Devices, Double Gloving, the Neutral Zone and the use of Blunt Suture Needles.



  1. AORN Guidance Statement: Sharps Injury Prevention in the Perioperative Setting.
  2. Association of perioperative Registered Nurses; Anonymous. (2005)Association of Operating Room Nurses. AORN Journal
  3. DeGirolamo, K etal. (2013). Use of Safety Scalpels and other Safety Practices to Reduce Sharps Injury in the Operating Room: What is the Evidence. Canadian Journal of Surgery, 56(4), 263-9
  4. Fields, R. (2011) 6 Ways to Decrease Sharps Injuries and Needle Sticks in the OR. Becker’s ASC Review.
  5. Foley, M. (2013) Safe in Common’s Online Conference– The Unfinished Agenda: Addressing the Challenges- to Explore Unmet Needlestick and Sharps Protection Needs”  U.S. Newswire
  6. Preventing Needle sticks and Other Sharps Injuries…Everything You Need to Know (Part I. Background) –