Needlesticks: The sharp end of workplace injuries

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Needlesticks: The sharp end of workplace injuries

Needlestick/sharps injuries or exposure to blood or body fluid are the worst nightmare of most healthcare workers. However careful you are, sometimes accidents happen – and they’re more common than you might think. In fact, needlestick or sharps injuries account for roughly 17% of accidents involving NHS staff and are the second most common injury just behind manual handling.

We don’t need to tell you the risks, but in nine out of ten cases, you’ll be absolutely fine. In fact, research suggests the odds are even better than that. However, we know that the period of uncertainty and waiting for results can be really scary.

It’s always a good idea to refresh yourself on what to do in these situations, after all you never know when you might need this information. If you’d like any more details, please refer to your staff bank handbook, or speak to our on-site teams at your trust who will be happy to help.

I’ve got a sharps injury. What next?


  • Panic
  • Do nothing
  • Scrub the wound
  • Suck the wound


  • Act fast
  • Encourage a wound to bleed
  • Use running water and lots of soap
  • Report it

It’s tempting to just hide your head in the sand if something like this happens, but that’s the worst thing you can do. The sooner you get help, the better and no-one is going to blame you or think you’re bad at your job because of it.

Report the incident to the senior nurse on duty or head of department as soon as possible and they’ll either contact the on-call ID doctor out of hours or they’ll send you to the Occupational Health department. Either way, make sure you have as much information as possible about how you got the injury but please don’t go back to discuss it with the patient. Please also ensure that you’ve filled out a Datix form or incident report.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your experience – understanding how these injuries can happen will help others to be aware and make sure that your colleagues know how to seek help should it happen to them.

Have you had an experience with sharps injuries? Let us know in the comments.

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