Business of Medicine


Prevention & Management of Needle Stick Injuries

By: Susannah Gleason

Prevention guidance

Needle sticks are one of the most common worker’s compensation injuries that occur in a healthcare organization. Fortunately, these types of injuries are easily preventable with safe workplace practices.

Healthcare organizations should have controls in place, which can help prevent needle stick injuries. Controls can include environmental safeguards as well as policies and procedures, which are put in place to protect both you and your employees. For prevention of needle sticks, these controls include:

  • Providing easily accessible sharps disposal containers with clearly marked full lines
  • Supplying healthcare workers with safe needle and sharps devices that provide protection via sheathing or needle retraction actions
  • Maintaining and educating staff on the organizations’ exposure control plan that highlights safety strategies to best minimize potential injuries

Most needle stick injuries occur when (1) passing off or disposing of a needle, (2) cleaning up after using a needle, and (3) improperly closing a needle safety cap. To help prevent some of these specific instances organizations should implement the following practices:

  • Always replace the sharps disposal container when the full line is reached to prevent injury when disposing of used needles
  • Periodically review proper handling methods (e.g. place on a tray instead of directly handing off and recommend no-recapping) with healthcare staff
  • Ensure used needles are clearly visible prior to clean up (e.g. do not cover with tissue, gauze, etc.)

Post-injury guidance

If a needle stick occurs there are steps you can take to minimize the potential injury.

For injured employees:
  1. Treat: First, treat the sharps injury by immediately washing the cut or puncture with soap and water. (Note: if exposure occurs via splash to nose, mouth, skin, or eyes immediately flush and irrigate with clean water or saline).
  2. Report: Second, report the incident to your supervisor.
For supervisors:
  1. Treat: First, consider the potential disease exposure (e.g. HIV, HBV, or HCV) and whether any further immediate treatment is needed, such as post-exposure prophylactics.
  2. Test: Second, perform baseline testing after exposure on both the source person (if status unknown) and the exposed employee including rapid HIV, HCV Ab, and HBV surface antigen if not immunized.
  3. Report: Third, record all work-related needle stick injuries involving potentially infectious material in your sharps injury log (or OSHA 300 Log for Hospitals). If the exposed employee is later diagnosed with an infectious disease, update the sharps injury log and reclassify it as an illness. (Note: if an employee is exposed via splash, compared to a puncture, report as “illness only” if diagnosis of infectious disease occurs). Needle stick injuries should also be reported to your organization’s workers’ compensation carrier.
  4. Retest: Finally, follow up with HIV test at 6-weeks, 3-months, and 6-months if the source person tested positive. For HCV, perform an HCV RNA test within 1-2 weeks after exposure. If results are positive for infection, refer to a specialist for treatment

If your organization has Workers’ Compensation coverage with MagMutual please contact your agent or email to report your organization’s workers’ compensation claims.

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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.