|Getting stuck with getting stuck|
|By Barry Evert, Sergeant|
Out of all the dangers we face as correctional professionals, none is as life changing as an exposure incident. During a cell search, I was stuck with a “dirty” tattoo needle. I followed all the rules and took all the precautions. I was wearing two sets of latex gloves, and even looked in the area I was searching before I put my hand there, but nonetheless, fate intervened.
As I grabbed for some contraband between two lockers, I felt that telltale electric shock feeling. I pulled my hand out and looked again, only to see a tattoo gun taped to the bottom of the locker.
After chiding the inmate for his carelessness, I hurried myself to the emergency room, following our local guidelines. Our exposure control plan is an in-depth one that aims to minimize the risk of infection. Unfortunately, with a rate of Hepatitis C ten times that of the general public, there is little that can be done after a needle stick like this. Luckily, the chances of contracting any disease from a minor puncture are one in 10 million; however I have never been one to tempt fate, so I took the precautions available to me.
If you do not have an exposure control plan for incidents of “gassing” or needle sticks, you are not only out of compliance with federal mandates, but you also are putting your employees at risk. Did you know that the risk of contracting HIV can be lessened if the employee gets to a hospital within two hours? If you didn’t, discuss this with your physician, and do everything you can to implement a plan at your institution.
It is a sinking feeling to wait for test results, and having to change your entire life for several months. A good exposure control plan can ease this for employees. Make sure that at the very least you inform your employees of the following:
Assume every exposure is dangerous until you are told otherwise by medical staff.
However, being proactive never hurts. Remind employees to look before they leap, and to never reach into areas they cannot plainly see. Don’t have them, or you, get stuck with getting stuck.
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