Nurses and midwives at highest risk of sharps injuries

Nurses and midwives have the highest rate of needlestick and other sharps injuries among Australian healthcare workers each year.

These injuries place workers at risk of occupational exposure to blood-borne viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

  • It is important for employers to implement a sharps safety program to reduce the risk of injury from needles and other sharps.
    Consider the following: Avoid the use of sharps where safe alternatives are available.
  • Provide safety engineered medical devices such as sharps with integrated safety features (e.g. retractable needles) and scalpel blade removal devices.
  • Develop procedures for the safe handling and disposal of sharps. This should include establishing responsibilities for sharps safety so that the person who generates the sharp is responsible for its safe disposal.
  • Ensure sharps containers are placed close to the point of use and that the containers are not overfilled.
  • Train staff in safe working practices to prevent needlestick and sharps injuries.
  • Instruct staff not to recap needles or pass sharps by hand.
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Have a process for reporting and investigating needlestick and sharps injuries.
  • Ensure that workers who sustain a needlestick or sharps injury undergo medical assessment and have access to counselling.
  • Ensure workers receive hepatitis B vaccination.

Employers should also provide information and training on:

  • relevant infectious diseases, including how they are transmitted and their prevention
  • infection control practices and procedures, including hand hygiene
  • correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • management of a blood or body fluid exposure and skin penetrating injury, including first aid, medical referral and access to counselling
  • incident reporting, recording and investigation.

Find out more about injury prevention.

Last updated
07 June 2017