By Tracey Erickson
Within agricultural production a good share of livestock producers perform routine veterinary work themselves. This includes administering vaccinations or treatments for common disease or sickness. A result of performing this type of work there is increased risk for injury do to a needle stick injury. According to the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), needlestick injury research shows that over 80% of farm workers and 73% of swine veterinarians working in animal agriculture have accidentally stuck themselves with a needle.
Needlestick Injuries: Risks & Prevention
Producers need to educate themselves and their employees about the proper protocols when administering injections to livestock to prevent a needle stick from occurring.
First, we need to ask, “Why are needlestick injuries a big deal?” Some of the more common injuries that can occur are the following: skin infections, allergic reactions, and deep tissue wounds that would require surgery. However, some less common but more serious injuries can occur and possibly even cause death include: miscarriages due to hormone products, a serious cardiovascular event, suppression or coma, systemic infections and allergic reactions to antibiotics.
As livestock and employee managers’ we need to do and provide the following:
- Train and retrain employees regularly about safe needle handling, safe injection procedures and the types of medications used.
- Provide safe animal handling equipment and ensure proper staffing when handling livestock.
- Provide readily accessible sharps container for safe needle disposal. You may need to show and explain what the sharps container is and why it is important.
- Provide needle / syringes with protective devices such as retractable needles or hinged syringe caps.
- Remind employees to use caution when using products of concern.
- Pregnant employees should not inject hormones.
- Encourage employees to practice best management practices when handling livestock, staying calm and not rushing.
- Encourage employees to report injuries.
- If a needlestick has occurerred the employees should contact a healthcare provider.
Employees and those administering any medication should practice the following:
- Slow down – don’t rush injections.
- Restrain animals properly using the appropriate livestock handling equipment and technique.
- Do not put needle caps in your mouth.
- Discard all bent needles and do not reuse them or straighten them.
- Do not put needles or syringes in your pockets.
- Use an approved and properly labelled sharps container.
- Do not remove needles from sharps containers.
- Do not recap needles.
- Report all needlestick injuries to management.
- Contact your health care provider if you have a needlestick injury.