Health & Safety- Needle Stick Injury

Needlestick injuries are wounds caused by needles that accidentally puncture the skin. Needlestick injuries are a hazard for people who work with hypodermic syringes and another needle equipment. These injuries can occur at any time when people use, disassemble, or dispose of needles. When not disposed of properly, needles can hide in linen or garbage and injure other workers who encounter them unexpectedly

Hazards of Needle stick injury

These injuries transmit infectious diseases, especially blood-borne viruses. Concern includes the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Incidental punctures by contaminated needles can inject hazardous fluids into the body through the skin. There is potential for injection of hazardous drugs, but contact with infectious fluids, especially blood, is by far the greatest concern. Even small amounts of infectious fluid can spread certain diseases effectively. Sharps can create a cut in the skin which allows contact between blood, or fluids.

The risk of infection after exposure to infected blood varies by bloodborne pathogen.

The Ontario Hospital Association/Ontario Medical Association (2016) estimate that after an injury in workplace situations from a needle contaminated with hepatitis B virus, there is a 6 to 30% chance that an exposed person will be infected. In a similar situation with HIV, there is about a 0.3% chance of infection, and there is about a 1.8% chance of infection for hepatitis C. Note also that because the hepatitis B virus may survive on environmental surfaces for more than a week, indirect exposure can occur via contaminated inanimate objects.

Injuries have transmitted many other diseases involving viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to health care workers, laboratory researchers, and veterinarian staff. The diseases include:

  • Blastomycosis
  • Brucellosis
  • Cryptococcosis
  • Diphtheria
  • Cutaneous Gonorrhoea
  • Herpes
  • Malaria
  • Mycobacteriosis
  • Mycoplasma Caviae
  • Spotted fever
  • Sporotrichosis
  • Staphylococcus Aureus
  • Streptococcus Pyogenes
  • Syphilis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis

Many of these diseases were transmitted in rare, isolated events. They still demonstrate, however, that needlestick and sharps injuries can have serious consequences.

If you pierce or puncture your skin with a used needle, follow this first aid advice immediately:

  1. Encourage the wound to bleed, ideally by holding it under running water
  2. Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap
  3. Do not scrub the wound while you’re washing it
  4. Do not suck on the wound
  5. Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing

You should also seek urgent medical advice as you may need treatment to reduce the risk of getting an infection.

  • contact your employers occupational health service if you injure yourself at work
  • Alternatively, call your GP, NHS 111 or go to your nearest accident and emergency department.
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