Needle-stick injuries prevention advice

The main risk posed by needle-stick injury to workers is exposure of the worker
to blood-borne viruses (BBV). The main viruses concerned are:

  • Hepatitis B (HBV).

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) and

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In the case of HBV an effective protective vaccine is available, but no such
protection is available for other BBVs. These other infections are difficult
to treat, the prophylaxis/treatment is unpleasant, may cause significant side
effects, and there is no guarantee that treatment will be successful. However,
as the prevalence/carriage rates of BBVs in the general UK population is
generally low and the risk of infection from needlestick injuries remains low,
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) website is a useful source of up to date
epidemiological data, particularly the figures provided in the Health
Protection Report.

Who is at risk?

The main group of workers at risk from needlestick injuries are those within
the healthcare sector, but injuries also occur in other fields of work such as
the prison service, police, parks constabulary, probation services, customs and
excise, social work, youth work, funeral industry, body piercing/body art
industry, car-breaking and the construction/demolition industry. Workers may
acquire a BBV infection if they are exposed to infected blood or body fluids:
this could be either via the mucous membranes (eyes, inside of the mouth and
nose), through broken skin or through an inoculation injury route, where the
skin is punctured or scratched by a needle or sharp device that has been used
in a medical procedure: this final route of transmission is commonly referred
to as a needlestick or sharps injury.

Safety procedures

The standard safety procedures adopted in the UK for the prevention of
needlestick injuries are know as standard or universal precautions, where all
blood and body fluids regardless of its source are considered to contain
infectious agents, and treated as such. Guidelines to this effect were
published by the Department of Health in 1998 (Guidance for Clinical Health
Care Workers: Protection against infection with Blood-borne viruses)

Some of the most straight-forward recommendations included are practices such

  • hand washing after each patient contact and after contact with blood or body

  • appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

  • disposable gloves should be worn whenever working with blood or body fluids.

  • disposable plastic aprons/impermeable gowns should be worn when splashing
    with blood or body fluids may occur

  • eye protection (visors, goggles, or safety spectacles) should be worn when
    blood, body fluids or flying contaminated debris/tissue might splash into the

  • covering any cuts or abrasions with waterproof plasters.

  • Immediate and safe disposal of sharps into appropriate, puncture-proof sharps

  • not overfilling sharps containers and

  • never re-sheathing needles

Further info

AplusA-online.de - Source: Health & Safety Executive