Background: Physicians, nurses, and others are at risk of needlesticks, yet little national information is available regarding incidence across demographic and occupational categories.
Methods: Analysis was conducted on national data on occupational injuries for 1992-2003 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because BLS data were limited to cases with 1 or more days of work loss, and reasons related to reporting of incidents, the data only reflected a subset of all needlesticks. Nevertheless, the data were internally consistent across categories so that relative magnitudes were reliable. Statistical tests for differences in proportions were conducted that compared needlesticks with all other occupational injuries and employment.
Results: Cases with 1 or more days of work loss numbered 903 per year, on average, from 1992 through 2003. Women comprised 73.3% (95% CI: 72.5%-74.2%) of persons injured. For those reporting race, white, non-Hispanic comprised 69.3% of the total (95% CI: 68.1%-70.4%); black, non-Hispanic, 14.8% (95% CI: 13.9%-15.6%); and Hispanic, 13.8% (95% CI: 12.9%-14.6%). The age bracket 35 to 44 years had the highest percentage of injuries at 34.0% (95% CI: 33.1%-34.9%). Ages over 54 years reported smaller percentages of needlestick injuries than either all other injuries or employment. Occupations with greatest frequencies included registered nurses, nursing aides and orderlies, janitors and cleaners, licensed practical nurses, and maids and housemen. Occupations with greatest risks included biologic technicians, janitors and cleaners, and maids and housemen. Almost 20% (95% CI: 18.88%-20.49%) of needlesticks occurred outside the services industry. Seven percent (95% CI: 6.56%-7.53%) of needlesticks resulted in 31 or more days of work loss in contrast to 20.46% (95% CI: 20.44%-20.48%) of all other injuries.
Conclusion: In this nationally representative sample, the most frequent demographic and occupational categories were women; white, non-Hispanic; ages 35 to 44 years; and registered nurses.