What are Safety Syringes?

D. Burke

Needle stick injuries are common among health care workers, posing a unique and serious health threat. Safety syringes are designed to prevent these types of injuries, which can expose workers to life-threatening, blood borne illnesses. A plastic shield is used to encase the needle on a used safety syringe so workers can transport or discard the syringe without the danger of needle stick injuries. These types of syringes typically are available in a limited number of sizes are are primarily used to draw blood and to inject medication. They often are more expensive than traditional syringes as well.

Safety syringes typically cost more, and may be an added expense for diabetics or others who regularly use them.
Safety syringes typically cost more, and may be an added expense for diabetics or others who regularly use them.

In general, safety syringes have the same components as standard needles. This includes: a needle, hub, barrel and plunger. The most notable difference between a safety syringe and its standard counterpart is the presence of a plastic shield which surrounds the needle and locks into place once the needle has been used. Most safety syringes also include plastic sheaths that can be opened and closed. This allows for safe transport and storage of the syringe during patient care. Further, these types of sheaths allow for safe disposal of the needle and removal of used needles from the health care facility. Although safety syringes help protect health care workers from needle stick injuries, these devices are not capable of preventing all of these injuries from occurring.

Safety syringes are primarily used to draw blood from patients.
Safety syringes are primarily used to draw blood from patients.

While safety syringes have the added benefit of providing health care workers with additional protection from needle stick injuries, there are some drawbacks to these syringes that should be noted. Specifically, these devices often come in limited sizes and cannot be used in all health care settings. In most instances, safety syringes come in sizes which are useful only for medication administration or blood withdrawal. Additionally, these types of syringes often cost more because of the additional plastic safety sheath that is included. As healthcare providers look for creative methods for reducing costs, safety syringes may be viewed as a luxury item that can be cut from the budget.

Efforts to improve the design of safety syringes and reduce their overall costs have resulted in the development of new innovations in this device. In particular, retractable syringes are usually available for purchase. Safety in these syringes is provided through the retraction of the needle into the barrel following use. Retractable syringes may provide a viable alternative to sheathed-barrel syringes. As these tools become more commonplace in the health care setting, the costs of these devices will continue to decrease and health care worker safety should improve.

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Discussion Comments


Considering some of the blood borne diseases around these days, I'm surprised the lab techs don't put on hazmat suits to draw blood! I'd be tempted.

It sounds to me like every responsible hospital ought to use some kind of safety syringes. Nurses and techs can't control who walks in the doors, and they don't know what kinds of goolies they're carrying around with them. There's no telling. So I'd be tempted to err on the side of caution and use the safety syringes.

I look at it like this: safety syringes are a heck of a lot cheaper than paying out a lawsuit on an employee who got something bad from a needle stick.


Most health care workers who have to deal with syringes generally know how to do so safely. I suppose the occasional stick is inevitable, but most health professionals I know also know how to keep from sticking themselves.

I've seen the kind with the locking shields, and they do look like the shields would be apt to prevent most accidental sticks. When I was on an injected medication, I stuck myself about once every couple of weeks, but I was sticking myself on my own needles, so it didn't make that much difference. The germs on the needle were mine, and I never had any ill effects other than a sore finger.

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