SPOTLIGHT: Needlestick Risks, An Interview with a Wisconsin Dairy Farmer

SPOTLIGHT: Needlestick Risks, An Interview with a Wisconsin Dairy Farmer


APRIL 2013

Iris Reyes and Teresa Schnetzer

While needlestick injuries are usually minor, certain injection related injuries are very serious. Studies have shown that 80% of farm workers and 73% of swine veterinarians working in animal agriculture have experienced a needlestick injury. While most needlestick injuries can produce skin irritation or allergic reactions, a deep tissue wound caused by a needlestick can sometimes require surgery. The most serious needlestick incidents can cause miscarriage due to hormone injection products, serious cardiovascular events, suppression or coma from sedatives, systemic infections or serious allergic reactions to antibiotics.

A comprehensive needlestick prevention program can help to minimize the risks of accidental sticks in animal agriculture. See the UMASH needlestick prevention resources for more information.

UMASH staff members Iris Reyes and Teresa Schnetzer recently had the privilege of interviewing a Wisconsin dairy farmer (Paul L.) regarding his experience with needlestick injuries. Here is an excerpt of their conversation:

How often did you use needles for your job within the last year?

How often would you say you stuck yourself accidentally in the last year?
Every couple of months

Please describe the scenario of your most recent needlestick incident.
I was IV’ing a cow. I might have been talking to someone or explaining something to someone when it happened.

Please describe scenarios surrounding your most common needlestick incidents.
(When) IV’ing a cow. Maybe the head wasn’t tied up tight enough, she (could be) shaking her head around or pissed off.

What do you usually use the needles for?
Vaccinations, hormones, antibiotics, vitamins, supportive therapy (saline solution)

What kinds of syringes/needles do you use?
We normally use 16 gauge regular disposable ones.

Do you use any of the following products for your animals: Tilmicosin, Mycotil, sedatives like Xylazine, oil-based adjuvants, Johne’s vaccine, modified live vaccines like Erysipelas vaccine? (*these products pose most serious risk for adverse effects to humans)

What means do you take to not get stuck?
I try to pay attention to what I’m doing and properly restrain the animals.

Do you currently train your workers/are you trained in safe needle handling? If so, what safe practices do you perform?
No. We use sharps containers. If the needle is dirty or bent, I throw it away. I usually think about the cow, not me.

Do you think a needlestick prevention program would be helpful for farmers/workers like you?
If there’s literature on it, yes.