Causes of needlestick injuries in three healthcare settings: analysis of accident notifications registered six months after the implementation of EU Directive 2010/32/EU in Germany

J Hosp Infect. 2017 Mar;95(3):306-311. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2016.11.015. Epub 2016 Nov 29.


Background: Needlestick injuries (NSIs) are the most common cause of sharps injuries and pose a serious risk to healthcare workers (HCWs). In 2014, 'Technical rule for biological agents in healthcare and welfare facilities' (TRBA 250) was modified in Germany in order to promote the prevention of sharps injuries.

Aims: To examine the epidemiology of NSIs among HCWs in hospitals, doctor's offices and in- and outpatient care; to collect information on the causes of the accidents when safety-engineered devices (SEDs) are used; and to compare the results with the main principles of TRBA 250.

Methods: The survey was based on HCWs' compensation claims for NSIs, as notified within a four-week period in November 2014. Detailed information on the NSI was collected by telephone interview.

Findings: In total, 533 HCWs participated. Subcutaneous needles were most often involved in NSIs, regardless of the healthcare setting (39% of all NSIs). Insulin pens were involved in 48% of NSIs in in- and outpatient care. Disposal of sharps devices accounted for 38% of the injuries. SEDs were used in 20% of NSIs. Lack of activation was the most important cause of failure when SEDs were used.

Conclusion: Despite the binding recommendations of TRBA 250, more efforts are needed to increase the experience of HCWs in terms of working with SEDs. All professional groups must be encouraged to be more aware of the risks associated with sharps disposal. Safe handling practices for disposal of insulin pens are needed in in- and outpatient care settings.

Keywords: Health personnel; Needlestick injury; Occupational exposure; Safety device.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Facilities*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needlestick Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Needlestick Injuries / etiology*
  • Young Adult