Needlestick statistics drop as passive safety device use rises

Sept. 1, 2011

Phlebotomy has benefited from improvements in safety-engineered devices to reduce the risk of needlestick injuries among healthcare workers. Since the signing of the Federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, significant advancements have been made by improving quality processes around needle/sharp safety. The most significant effect of the 2000 law is that it led to a 34% reduction in accidental needlesticks in the United States. Needle exposures while performing phlebotomy procedures decreased 60%.1

Even with legislation and the advancements in safety designs, needlestick injuries still occur. In phlebotomy procedures, 62% of injuries occur within seconds after the device is removed from the vein, but before manual activation of the safety device by the healthcare professionals during the termination of a venipuncture.2

Mary Foley, RN, MS, PhD, past president of the American Nursing Association, and associate director of the Center for Nursing Research and Innovation at the University of California-San Francisco has noted it is understandable — given human nature, coupled with the frenzied pace of healthcare delivery these days — that being safe can be difficult to remember; if you have to remember to be safe, you likely will not be.3

Preventing needlestick injuries and focusing on continuous improvement means getting to the point where the possibility of a needlestick during venipuncture is eliminated. The reduction of needlestick injuries over the past 10 years can be partially attributed to healthcare personnel taking the time to manually activate the safety shield to render safe a contaminated needle exposed to bloodborne pathogens. The key factors are taking the time and manually activating the safety shield. These factors in a frenetic healthcare delivery system are not always available to healthcare staff and, when not available, continue to be a systemic cause of needlestick injuries.

Today, however, the healthcare industry is closer than ever to eliminating the risk of needlestick injuries suffered by those responsible for phlebotomy procedures. Safety-engineered devices employing passive technology with automatic safety-shielding are available for phlebotomy procedures. Passive technology with automatic safety shielding tackles the key factor contributing to needlesticks injuries during a venipuncture: taking the time to and manually activate the safety shield.

Passive technology integrates the safety shielding into the function of the device used in a procedure. A phlebotomy safety-engineered device has the safety shield automatically engaged as healthcare professionals perform a venipuncture so, at its termination, the needle is rendered safe as it is withdrawn from the patient’s arm. Passive devices with automatic safety shielding do not rely on the manual activation of the safety shield. Automatic safety devices are more effective compared to user-activated device with manually-activated and semi-automatic activated shields in preventing needlestick injuries.4

Past studies on various types of safety-engineered devices to prevent needlestick injuries concluded that automatic (passive) safety-engineered devices are more effective to reduce needlestick injuries than semiautomatic and manually activated devices.4 Passive devices with automatic safety showed to cause a needlestick 0.06 times for every 100,000 uses.4 Extrapolated, this translates to usage of over 1.6 million passive devices with automatic safety shielding before a needlestick injury may occur.

Kevin Daugherty is the marketing director responsible for product management, product marketing, technical marketing, and marketing communications at Greiner Bio-One North America, Monroe, NC.


  1. Ernst D. Needlestick Authorities Hold Historic Conference. Center for Phlebotomy Education. Phlebotomy Today. 2010;11(12).
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Evaluation of Safety Devices for Preventing Percutaneous Injuries Among Health-Care Workers During Phlebotomy Procedures — Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, and San Francisco, 1993-1995. MMWR Weekly. 1997;46(2):21-25.
  3. Pyrek K. Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act 10-Year Anniversary. SURGistrategies. December 8, 2010. Accessed August 8, 2011.
  4. Tosini W, Ciotti C, et al. Needlestick Injury Rates According to Different Types of Safety-Engineered Devices: Results of a French Multicenter Study. Infect Cont Hosp Ep. 2010;4(31):402-407.