Needlestick injuries are injuries that are caused when a sharp instrument or object such as a needle pierces the skin. They are also known as sharp injuries. In most cases, these injuries occur when a person uses a needle or syringe carelessly or they are accidentally pricked by needles that are not disposed of properly.
Professions At Risk Of Needlestick Injuries
Any profession that involves handling any type of sharp object is at risk of needlestick injury, but certain professions are at higher risk because of the nature of the job.
Healthcare workers fall under the highest-risk category for needlestick injuries. This includes doctors, dentists, surgeons, and all allied healthcare workers who use syringes, scalpels and other sharp instruments routinely during their work day.
Waste disposal workers, tattoo artists, cleaners, prison officers, police officers and those working in the food preparation sector, are all also at high risk for needlestick injuries. All of these professionals routinely deal with needles, syringes, scalpels and other sharp instruments at work.
Types Of Needlestick Injuries
Needlestick injuries can vary considerably in severity. Some may result in a small trickle of blood accompanied by localised tenderness and swelling, while others may result in profuse bleeding and excruciating pain. In some cases, the effects are temporary, while in others they may be long term or even permanent.
The biggest cause for concern with sharp injuries is the possibility of infection if the instrument is contaminated. Contaminated needles are the primary cause of transmission of serious blood-borne infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C. It is also possible to contract AIDS, caused by the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus through these injuries.
Some of these illnesses are currently incurable, which means you may have to go on some form of treatment for the rest of your life to manage the symptoms.
Reducing The Risk Of Needlestick Injuries
If you work in any of the high risk professions and your work involves handling needles or sharp instruments, you must take measures to protect yourself from any accidental injury. The exact protective measures you need to take will depend on the type of work you do. In general:
- Always adhere to standard safety guidelines and recommended hygiene practices for infection prevention;
- Use recommended protective gloves when handling needles, syringes and other sharp instruments;
- Use needle alternatives when possible;
- When using a needle is unavoidable, ensure that they have the standard safety features;
- Avoid putting your hands into rubbish bins or waste heaps where sharp objects may be hidden.
Unfortunately, despite taking all the recommended precautions, you could still be involved in an accident that results in a needlestick injury,
What You Should Do After A Sharp Injury
Knowing what to do immediately after such an injury is crucial in order to minimise the risks of potential exposure to viruses, and infection from contaminated instruments and medical supplies.
Following these few simple first aid measures will help in case you have sustained such an injury:
- Do not try and stop the bleeding. Instead, encourage the wound to bleed so that the contaminated blood flows out.
- Do not scrub or suck on the affected spot or wound.
- Wash the wound gently under cold running water first. Then wash it with a mild soap and rinse again.
- Dab the wound with a clean dry towel to remove excess water.
- When the wound is dry, apply antiseptic ointment or cream and cover it with waterproof dressing.
Keep in mind that these are just the first-aid measures. Visiting your nearest Accident and Emergency department and getting proper medical treatment should be your immediate priority. Do not ignore the injury or treat it solely using home remedies.
It is equally important to watch out for side effects and symptoms that may develop even weeks or months after the injury. Consult your GP right away if you develop a sudden fever or skin rash. You should also refrain from donating blood until such time that your GP gives you the okay after a thorough examination.
Legal Considerations In Case Of A Needlestick Injury
In addition to getting the necessary medical attention, you must also take steps to protect yourself legally in case the injury warrants a claim for compensation. In most cases, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation if the injury resulted from somebody else’s mistake or negligent action.
Here are a few things you should do to boost your chances of winning a potential needlestick injury compensation claim:
- Report the injury to your employer immediately and make a written report in the log book.
- Photographs provide irrefutable proof of the injury and make it difficult for the offending party to contest the claim. In addition to getting photographs of any bruises and other injuries, you should also get photographs of the scene of the accident and of the sharp instrument that caused your injuries.
- Keep a record of your doctor’s diagnosis and prescribed treatment and maintain receipts of all expenses incurred because of the needlestick injury. This includes all medical and travel expenses.
- Get the contact details of any co-workers who witnessed the accident so they can support your claim.
- Get in touch with a personal injury solicitor to help you file your case and represent you in court. Legal proceedings can be extremely complicated and winning a compensation claim on your own can be difficult if you do not have the necessary experience.
As with most other compensation claims the total amount of compensation the court awards you will depend on a combination of several different factors. In calculating fair compensation, the court will take into consideration general damages, loss of income and work-related perks, medical expenses for all short and long term treatment associated with the injury, and travel expenses associated with the accident. You may also be entitled to claim reimbursement for the cost of hiring someone to care for you if your injuries left you in need of help as well as for any structural changes you were forced to make to your home or vehicle.
A personal injury solicitor will be able to give you proper advice as to what you can claim for and how to proceed with filing a compensation claim.
For further information on needlestick injury claims please refer to this page.