Posted on May 26, 2020 in Waste Solutions
Around 100,000 needlestick injuries are reported every year in the UK.
A needlestick or sharps injury could have severe mental and health consequences. Therefore, it’s vital that you take appropriate actions to eliminate or reduce the risk of an injury. To help achieve this, you must carry out a sharps risk assessment.
This article will outline the steps involved in a sharps risk assessment and provide a template so you can effectively carry out a risk assessment for your property.
What are sharps?
A sharp is any item that could result in a cut or puncture wound. This includes:
- Needles and hypodermic needles
- Blades, including knives and saws
- Infusion sets used for insulin delivery
- Broken glass.
A sharps injury occurs when a sharps object penetrates the skin. There are several risks associated with sharps injuries, and an accidental puncture could have serious mental and physical repercussions.
Some risks attached to sharps injuries:
Exposure to blood-borne viruses (BBVs) and other pathogens including HIV, hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV). Even very small amounts of bodily fluids on a sharp can transmit diseases.
Psychological stress – testing after exposure to bodily fluids from a sharps injury can be very stressful. This can last for several months and seriously impact the individual and their family.
Financial repercussions – your business could face serious financial repercussions after an injury, including lost working time, investigation costs and re-hiring costs.
There are several pieces of legislation that cover the safe use and disposal of sharps instruments in the UK.
To comply with the law, a competent person must carry out a sharps risk assessment, identify hazards and risks and decide on controls.
This person might be you, or it might be another nominated person, but it’s important that appropriate risk assessments are carried out for your establishment.
Five steps to a sharps risk assessment:
1. Identify the hazards
You should start your risk assessment by identifying all potential hazards in the workplace.
For property professionals, think about:
- Any inspection work, especially externally
- Public gardens or common areas
- In or around rubbish bins
- External bait boxes
- Any setting that your common sense tells you might be high risk.
When working with needles and sharps, you may be exposed to blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C and HIV. A sharps-related injury always carries the risk of a blood-borne virus.
Additionally, you must also consider other hazards, including the stress and anxiety that could result from having blood tests and treatment after an incident.
Some sharps devices will carry a higher risk of transmitting a disease, for example:
- Needles, especially hollow bore needles
- IV cannulas
- Winged steel needles, also known as butterfly needles
- Phlebotomy needles.
You will need to consider this elevated risk when you complete your risk assessment. A competent person will survey your workplace and identify all hazards.
2. Decide who might be harmed and how
Any people who regularly works around high-risk areas or is involved in checking external monitoring boxes is at risk of a sharps-related injury.
Remember that sharps legislation covers both directly employed staff members and some self-employed workers, including contract and agency workers.
Therefore, ensure you consider these workers during your risk assessment.
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
You should make all reasonable effort to remove or reduce the possibility of exposure to the hazards you have identified.
The best possible way to prevent an injury is to eliminate the risk. This may not be possible as you’ll have no control over where an abandoned needle might be.
If you cannot completely eliminate the hazards, you should take all necessary actions to reduce and control the risks. For example, you should:
- Immunise your employees against hepatitis B
- Inspect carefully, giving the situation your full attention and using your torch to make sure you can see any potential hazards
- Train your employees on the risks, as well as the proper use and disposal of sharps equipment
- Ensure appropriate sharps bins are in place in your van
- Enforce the use of appropriate PPE, where necessary
- Have a needlestick injury prevention committee.
4. Record your findings and implement them
You should document all the information from your risk assessment, including the control methods you have decided on, and use this as an action plan to reduce the risk of an injury.
Depending on the size of the organisation, you might need to carry out more than one risk assessment, i.e. per job type, or high risk area.
You should share the results of your risk assessment with all the people you have identified as ‘at risk’.
5. Monitor performance and review
Periodically review and update your risk assessment to ensure that it remains up to date and effective.
You should use accident reports to identify areas you missed during your risk assessment and use the information to update your controls.
For more information on our sharps services please call one of our friendly team on 0845 604 1288 or visit Protech Sharps Solutions.
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