Reducing injuries

All legislation concerning accidental needlesticks is intended to curb accidents, but here are a few simple tips you can use immediately:

  • Avoid the use of needles wherever and whenever safe and effective alternatives are available.
  • Help your employer select and evaluate devices with safety mechanism that reduces the risk of needlestick injury.
  • Use devices with safety mechanisms provided by your employer.
  • Avoid recapping needles.
  • Before using them, plan for the safe handling and disposal of needles.
  • Promptly dispose of used needles in appropriate sharps disposal containers.
  • Report all needlestick and sharps-related injuries promptly to ensure you receive appropriate follow-up care.
  • Tell your employer of all needlestick hazards you observe.
  • Participate in training related to infection prevention.
  • Get a hepatitis B vaccination, unless you are immune because of previous exposure.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services: DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2000-135.

Minimizing the effect of injury if you are stuck

  • Take care of the wound immediately after the accident.
  • Let the wound bleed for a moment and then cleanse thoroughly with water or saline solution.
  • Disinfect the wound using an ample amount of soap and water followed by 70% alcohol. In case of contact with mucous membranes, it is important to rinse immediately and thoroughly using water or saline solution only, not alcohol. Do not "milk out" more blood.
  • Report the incident immediately to your superior or the department dealing with occupational accidents. This will allow for proper registration and subsequent management of the event. Ideally, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be initiated within one hour of the injury*. Typically, this is done in the Emergency Department or the Occupational Health Office.

Immediate action (injured person):

  • A blood sample should be taken as soon as possible after the injury.
  • This sample should then be kept as a baseline value in case infection takes place. It can be used to determine whether the infection occurred at work.
  • Further blood samples to test for HBV, HCV, and HIV are collected after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months, or according to your local rules.

Immediate action (dealing with potential source):

  • If the source of the blood is known, the patient must be asked for permission to sample blood for HCV and HIV tests.
  • If the patient refuses, then it must be assumed that the patient is a carrier of the virus.
  • If the origin of the blood is unknown, then any blood present on the needle can be used for a serological examination.

Sources:
 WGO, World Gastroenterology Organization; Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC. "Don´t milk out more blood"

*Chalupa et al: "Needlestick and Sharps Injury Prevention: Are We Reaching Our Goals". AAACN Viewpoint, 2008.

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