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Sharps Management and Needle Stick Injury

Procedure for picking up a used needle or syringe

  1. Assess the area for other possible hazards
  2. Put on gloves
  3. Place the sharps disposal bin beside the needle or syringe
  4. Pick up the needle or syringe by the centre of the barrel
  5. Place it in the bin – sharp end first
  6. Replace the lid or cap on the sharps disposal container
  7. Wash hands thoroughly
  8. Dispose of sharps disposal container at an appropriate location [check with NTAHC or the NSP booklet for the most convenient]

Things to consider

  • Never attempt to re-cap any needle or syringe
  • Never put your hands in places where you can’t visibly see potential needles and syringes
  • Use tongs or any other tool to move the needle or syringe into an open area
  • The gloves that are worn can be latex, as the purpose of the glove is to provide a physical barrier between any potential infected blood or blood products and your blood.  Bulky gloves such as  heavy duty construction gloves may be unsafe as you may not have full control of the needle or syringe.
  • Prior to picking up the needle or syringe ensure that you are in a stable position. For example, placing one knee on the ground can stabilise you significantly and ensure that you are unlikely to slip and accidently injure yourself.
  • Placing your non-dominant hand behind your back when you are picking up the needle or syringe can also provide extra safety.  Generally, human instinct shows that if something is falling we put out two hands to catch it. In the unlikely chance that you accidently drop the needle and syringe you only use one hand to control and not two, reducing the chance of needle stick injury.


Managing a needle stick injury

  •  Remain calm
  • Gently squeeze the area to encourage the site to bleed
  • Place injury under cold running water for a minimum of 30 seconds
  • Dry the site
  • Apply antiseptic and a waterproof dressing
  • Contact doctor or sexual health clinic for base line testing
  • Complete any necessary occupational health and safety documentation

Things to consider

  • Trying to remain calm can reduce your heart rate and limit the amount of potential infectious material that travels around your body in your blood stream.
  • Using cold water instead of hot will ensure that the blood does not congeal.
  • It is essential that your contact your doctor or local health service to being the process of assessing the risks from the injury.  It is extremely unlikely that you will contract a blood borne virus (BBV) (hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS) however, it is essential that you speak with your health care provider about base line testing and treatment options.  
  • The doctor will not be able to tell you immediately whether you have been infected.
  • The doctor will take blood to verify your anti-body levels for the mentioned BBVs and whether you require a hepatitis B vaccination.  Additionally you will require blood tests at three, six and possibly twelve months post injury to provide a concrete anti-body negative diagnosis. 
  • Depending on how the injury was sustained you may be eligible for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is a treatment given to attempt to reduce any potential HIV molecules replicating and attaching to your lymph nodes.  This treatment can take a heave toll on the body as it can cause significant side effects, however it is worth considering this treatment option.   As it is being given without HIV diagnosis it is difficult to determine its success.
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