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Needle and sharps safety

The Centre for Disease Control designed "universal precautions" to help protect people who are providing first aid or healthcare from the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and other bloodborne pathogens. Using the "better safe than sorry" principle, universal precautions are based on the assumption that blood and certain body fluids of all people carry HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens.


Use barrier protection at all times to prevent skin and mucous membrane contamination with blood, body fluids containing visible blood, or any other body fluids.

  • Use barrier protection with all tissues. The type of barrier protection used should be appropriate for the type of procedures being performed and the type of exposure anticipated.
  • Wear gloves when there is potential for hand or skin contact with blood, other potentially infectious material, or items and surfaces contaminated with these materials.
  • Wear face protection (face shield) during procedures that are likely to generate droplets of blood or body fluid to prevent exposure to mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Wear protective body clothing (disposable laboratory coats) when there is a potential for splashing of blood or body fluids.
  • Change gloves and other protective clothing when moving from one patient (or child) to another. Wash hands thoroughly before putting on a new pair of gloves.

Thorough and frequent hand washing is essential.

  • Wash hands or other skin surfaces thoroughly and immediately if contaminated with blood, body fluids containing visible blood, or other body fluids to which universal precautions apply.
  • Wash hands immediately after gloves are removed.

Handle instruments with caution.

  • Avoid accidental injuries that can be caused by needles, scalpel blades, or laboratory instruments when performing procedures, cleaning instruments, handling sharp instruments, and disposing of used needles, pipettes, etc.
  • Place used needles, disposable syringes, scalpel blades, pipettes, and other sharp items in puncture-resistant containers marked with a biohazard symbol for disposal.


  • Seek the help of the on site first – aider, who will be aware of several measures to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Remove the needle and encourage the wound to flow freely, do not suck the wound
  • Wash with soap and running water, do not scrub
  • Wash off splashes on skin as above
  • Wash off splashes to eyes & nose with copious amounts of clean running water
  • For mouth contamination, rinse well with water, do not swallow water

Go straight to the nearest A&E Dept.
On arrival at A&E, it is important to have a full assessment to identify the risk of exposure; therefore it is helpful to establish the origin of the needle / item.  If the assessment shows that exposure is high risk then POST – EXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (P.E.P) will be available.  This is a course of treatment that may prevent the onset of infection from a blood borne virus.

  • Complete all reporting procedures
  • Ensure that a senior manager is informed of the injury


Do not pick the needle up unless you are trained in sharps handling and you have all the equipment you need with you.  
Call your local council and ask for the cleansing team.  Stay with the needle or equipment while you make the call.

Accurate information is essential for the removal of drug litter, the more information you can provide the faster the operatives can find the litter.
The type of information required by operatives include: -

  1. Caller details -
    • Name
    • Phone number
    • Address
  2. Caller accessibility -  
    •  Is caller willing to be contacted either in person or on phone by operatives?
  3. Location details -
    • Address with nearest house number.
    • Any landmarks near drug litter (e.g. Lamppost reference number, phone box or any other street furniture).

    If it is possible it is best for you to stay with the drug litter while waiting for operatives to come.

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