October 21, 2022

Study: Manually cleaning medical instruments increases contamination exposure

Editor's Note

The American Journal of Infection Control published a study on October 13 showing the risks of manually cleaning medical equipment, Healthcare Purchasing News October 14 reports. The study emphasizes the importance of proper procedures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce risk of contamination.

The study expands upon former research, which found that staff who handle reusable medical instruments can be exposed to patient fluids even when wearing PPE. Previous research also shows links between contamination from sinks and healthcare facility outbreaks.

“This study confirms that technicians working in sterile processing departments [SPD] are at risk for exposure to water droplets that may contain blood, tissue, and other patient fluids,” noted the lead author, adding that even in optimal and sterile environments, there was excessive splash during standard cleaning procedures.

The results demonstrate that generated splash can be detected more than 7 feet away from the processing sink, and that personnel, even from a distance, are at risk of exposure. The splash is not only harmful to these individuals but also poses contamination threat to other staff and patients in healthcare facilities.

“This study is instructive for infection preventionists and workplace safety professionals, providing a backdrop against which they should review [SPD] workflows and evaluate whether additional infection prevention or engineering control measures are needed to best protect workers and others in their facilities,” said Linda Dickey, RN, MPH, CIC, FAPIC, the 2022 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), adding that it is critical the industry places more emphasis on safety and support for workers.

Read the APIC release here.

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