In the UK, healthcare workers are at high risk of developing a potentially life-threatening disease as a result of sharps injury. When you then consider that the risk of infection following a needlestick injury is estimated to be one in three for HBV, one in 30 for HCV and one in 300 for HIV (Safer Needle Network 2006) it is vital that safety procedures are put in place in all GP practices.
Following the introduction of The Health & Safety (Sharps Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, all healthcare facilities need to assess the risk of exposure to blood-borne infections from sharps injuries, identify how to eliminate this and where exposure cannot be eliminated, put into place extensive prevention methods. The legislation also requires a framework for the occurrence of a sharps injury and the need for employers to revise their reporting procedures with health and safety representatives.
Here we provide some guidelines to ensure you and the staff in your practice are complying with these regulations:
1. Always dispose of used sharps directly into an approved sharps container
It is essential that your sharps are segregated and disposed of correctly based on their medical contamination. The lid colour and label on the container relates to how the waste should be treated and disposed of.
Sharps that are contaminated with medicines (excluding cytotoxic or cytostatic medicines) for disposal by incineration, will go into a yellow-lidded container
Sharps that are not contaminated with medicines for disposal by treatment or incineration will go into an orange lidded container
2. Where possible, always take the sharps container to the point of use
This avoids the need to walk anywhere with a needle, which creates higher risk of an injury occurring.
3. Always discard the needle and syringe as one unit
You are more likely to get a needlestick injury if you try to remove the needle from the syringe; due to hazards of removing, as well as an increased step in the processes that you are going through.
4. Do not re-sheath needles
When the Health & Safety (Sharps Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 came into place in May last year, the recapping of needles was banned, so it is now against regulations to do so. The purpose of this is to prevent needlestick injuries from occurring when removing the needle. You should use a safer sharps device to remove needles from your syringe.
5. Do not leave used sharps lying around
Although this may seem obvious, sharps injuries are still known to occur as a result of sharps being left lying around, when other people are not aware that they are there, so it is extremely important that they are disposed of immediately after use.
6. Report all sharps injuries immediately
If a sharps injury does occur, you need to ensure you follow the below steps:
- Encourage bleeding from the wound
- Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof dressing
- Seek urgent medical advice at a hospital
- Report the injury and ensure all details are reported in your practice’s accident reporting book
Take a look at our useful infographic ‘Understanding the dangers of needlestick injuries‘