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Working with needlesticks and sharps

NeedlesContact with contaminated needles, scalpels, broken glass and other sharps could expose persons to blood that contains pathogens or other biological material which ultimately could pose a serious risk to the person exposed. Exposure in this way to bodily fluids, secretions and bodily tissues are treated as potentially posing a risk of infection.

In a laboratory setting, eliminating the use of needle devices whenever safe and effective alternatives are available is the most effective way of minimising sharps injury.

Where this is not possible, the risk can be minimised by providing needle devices with safety features and puncture resistant UN approved 'sharps' containers for their safe disposal (noting that the latter should be replenished at suitable intervals to prevent overfilling). If the sharps container is getting near to the fill line, make sure another is obtained.

Anyone working with needles should avoid recapping or bending needles that might be contaminated and should promptly dispose of used needles and other sharps such that they are not left unattended.

When the 'sharps' container needs to be moved, ensure the lid is secure to prevent it spilling its contents.

When there is a need to work with sharps or needles, the work must be planned for and the appropriate safe handling method and disposal technique put in place before use. Follow the safe operating procedure relevant to your work activity and ensure that you have a 'sharps' container and there is a suitable waste stream. Never place sharps in bags which could puncture when handled or autoclaved.

Ensure that when working with sharps or needles you have sufficient space, be aware of the people working around you and allow sufficient time to conduct the work safely.

If you have an incident that leads to a needlestick or sharps injury ensure that you take immediate action by reporting it and following the first aid procedure. If you know what contamination could be possible, ensure this information is shared with those providing First Aid.

Inadvertant exposure to needlesticks and sharps

This is possible in locations where needles and sharps have been left out or simply discarded inappropriately. Security Services should be contacted if anyone identifies a needle (or other sharps) in a non-laboratory setting. Never attempt to pick up the item or move it with bare hands. Contact Security and await their arrival.

Security Services have their own procedure for safely disposing of sharps and carry their own sharps disposal kit.

Dealing with surfaces that have been contaminated with bodily fluids

Ensure you are wearing nitrile gloves before initially removing any solid materials and placing these into a biohazard bag.

Make up a suitable disinfectant (a chlorine releasing disinfectant tablet is most suitable) and dilute with water as per the instructions to provide a final concentration of 10,000ppm available chlorine solution.

Pour the dinsinfectant over the contaminated area (avoiding splashing) and leave on for 10 minutes before washing off with copious amounts of water.

Waste material to be either autoclaved or sent for hazardous waste disposal (yellow bags).