December 06, 2019

Keeping Employees Safe This Flu Season

With cold weather comes the prevalence of the flu and the need for proactive immunization. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, which spreads through the air when infected people cough or sneeze. Complications from the flu can lead to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death for at-risk patients.

According to Stericycle’s Second Annual Influenza Study, nearly 60% of Americans are worried that they will catch the flu and when asked what concerns them most about the flu, aside from being sick themselves, they point to the risk of getting children or family members sick (26%) and missing work (16%).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that flu vaccines can reduce the risk of catching the flu. Fortunately, more than half of Americans got a flu shot last year, and people are on track to do the same this year. The most common places Americans are receiving or plan to receive flu vaccines are doctor’s offices (47%), their local retail pharmacies (34%) and workplaces (13%), and of those that received or plan to receive their flu vaccine at their workplace, 2 out of 3 say it will cause them to think more positively about their company.

What Happens to All the Sharps and Needles?

Pharmacies, private practices and hospitals alike recognize that effective immunization programs are best practice in the approach of and throughout flu season. Given the number of people getting flu shots, it’s important for healthcare organizations like doctor’s offices and retail pharmacies to properly dispose of the large volume of used needles. With defined disposal procedures, the likelihood of inadvertent needlesticks decreases, which can not only prevent the transmission of pathogens, but also help ensure staff is kept safe. Here are some tips for ensuring appropriate needle disposal and keeping staff safe.

1. Use OSHA compliant sharps containers
Organizations should place puncture-resistant, leak-proof containers throughout patient care areas, so they are easily accessible to staff. These receptacles should be clearly labeled and designed to securely hold contaminated sharps until they leave the facility. In addition, provide staff with containers that have a safe as well as convenient design, for example a vertical drop lid that requires no manual intervention to insert the sharps.

2. Educate staff on proper procedures
Staff should be trained on how to correctly dispose of contaminated needles, including how to use sharps containers and the risks of not following procedure. As part of this training, organizations also should emphasize the importance of good hand hygiene and proper use of PPE as there are additional ways to prevent the transmission of pathogens.

3. Establish a reliable process for container removal
Without a procedure for replacing sharps containers, they can exceed the fill-line, putting staff at risk. Stericycle’s Sharps Management Service and Sharps Mail Back Program provide safe and sustainable options for organizations to compliantly manage their vaccination program waste streams. This prevents overflow and ensures that a safe container is always available, especially during high-volume times like flu season.

Stericycle can help ensure your organization’s vaccination programs stay safe and compliant. If you’d like to learn more, our infographic showcases more information about sharps waste regulatory requirements.  

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