What is the Risk?

The main risk from a needle-stick injury is exposure to blood-borne viruses (BBV) such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. Whilst there is a vaccine available for Hepatitis B there is no vaccine for other blood-borne viruses.

Who is at Risk?

Those most at risk are people within the healthcare sector; however the risk is also prevalent across other industries. These include:

  • Police
  • Customs & exercises
  • Social work
  • Prison service waste disposal / management
  • Body piercing / body art

Risk from blood-borne viruses if a person comes into contact with infected blood or body fluids. There are many ways that someone may come into contact with infected blood or body fluids including through a needle-stick injury. This occurs when in punctured or scratched by a needle or sharp device.

Safety Precautions

There are several simple yet effective ways to protect against needle-stick injuries:

  • Wash hands immediately after contact with blood or body fluids
  • Wash hands after each patient
  • Where appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) e.g. disposable gloves for a health professional working with blood or body fluids or puncture resistant gloves such as Turtle Skin Gloves if dealing with waste collection on conducting person searches.
  • Disposable aprons should be worn if there is a risk splashing of blood or body fluid
  • Protective eyewear if there is potential for the blood or body fluid to splash in the face
  • All cuts or open wounds should be covered to create a barrier against exposure to infected blood or body fluids
  • Immediately dispose of used needles into a secure puncture-proof sharps bin

It is possible to prevent needle-stick injuries occurring by taking the necessary precautions. It is always best to take a cautious approach when come into contact with blood / body fluids or dealing with used needles.

In situations where an employees is likely to be exposed to blood / body fluids or used needles then the employer is responsible for ensuring that employees are provided with the appropriate equipment to protect against needle-stick injuries.