Potential Work-Related Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures by Industry and Occupation in the United States Part I: An Emergency Department-Based Surveillance Study

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Since the early 1990s, researchers have attempted to assess the magnitude of potential work-related bloodborne pathogen (BBP) exposures in the U.S. The only dataderived estimate of 385,000 needlestick and other sharps injuries per year was reported in 2004. The estimate was derived from a convenience sample and did not include exposures outside of hospitals. This study seeks to understand the magnitude and distribution of the exposures across all industries and occupations.


Data were from the 1998 to 2000 National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a stratified probability-based sample of U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs). NEISS covers all industries and occupations. National estimates of exposures and exposure rates (the number of exposures/1,000 full-time equivalents (FTE)) were computed.


An estimated 78,100 potential work-related exposures to BBP were treated in hospital EDs annually in the U.S. While hospitals accounted for 75% of all these exposures, 11 other industries had a substantial number of exposures. While registered nurses accounted for 36% of all exposures, 13 other occupations had a substantial number of exposures. Hospitals had the highest exposure rate of 11.3/1,000 FTE, followed by nursing homes (2.8), and residential care facilities without nursing (1.9). Registered nurses had the highest exposure rate of 15.3/1,000 FTE, followed by clinical laboratory technologists and technicians (13.9), and physicians (7.1).


While this study begins to more completely describe the problem of potential BBP exposure in the workplace, it is but a first step in further understanding the complex issues surrounding workplace BBP exposures. Am. J. Ind. Med. 50:183-190, 2007. Published 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.†

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