Safety, Health and Wellbeing

Needlestick/sharps injury and disposal of sharps guidelines

Our role is to develop and assist in the implementation of the UWA safety, health and wellbeing programs in order to minimise the risk of injury, illness and property damage.

We provide consultancy and other services to promote best practice and legislative compliance in all University and related activities.

The University recognises its legal obligation to provide a safe work environment and that the risk of injury from sharp implements requires specific management and control.

For the purpose of this policy ‘sharps’ includes, syringes, needles, scalpels, razor blades, broken glass or any other sharp implement with the potential to cause a penetrating injury if not handled in a safe manner. Sharps are commonly used during research, undergraduate teaching and in clinical practice.

Sharps can potentially be contaminated with many different types of micro-organisms and while the risk from blood borne viruses such as Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), and Hepatitis B and C is generally well known, there are many other micro-organisms that are found in contaminants such as blood, faeces, sewerage, human or animal secretions. Therefore all sharps, unless their origin is known, should be treated as contaminated.

  1. Disposal of sharps - research and teaching areas
  2. Disposal of sharps found in non-teaching/clinical areas
  3. Dealing with a 'needlestick or sharps' injury
  4. Coverage for medical expenses
  5. References

Disposal of sharps - research and teaching areas

Work practices and the means for safe disposal of sharps is the responsibility of each faculty or work area. Managers and supervisors have a responsibility for informing staff and students on these procedures.

Needles should not be resheathed, unless an appropriate re-capping device is available.

Sharps (needles, scalpel blades, razor blades) are to be disposed of into approved impermeable sharps containers designated for the disposal of sharps.

The containers must comply with AS/NZS 4261 eg. BUNZLE (needles only), or SHARPSAFE types and display the biohazard symbol. Sharps containers must only be filled to 3/4 level or to the manufacturer's instruction.

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Disposal of sharps found in non-teaching/clinical areas

If a ‘sharp’ is found on the campus, such as in grounds or ablution blocks then call UWA Security immediately on (+61 8) 6488  3020, advising them of the location of the item.

Security staff carry 'sharps' disposal containers in their vehicles.  Do not pick up the 'sharps' item.  If the source of the broken glass or other sharp objects is not known, assume that it could potentially be contaminated and call Security.

WA Department of Health provide guidance on the safe disposal of needles and syringes.

If you definitely know that the broken glass object is not contaminated it can be picked up while avoiding contact with the skin – use paper or a dustpan and brush. The glass or sharp object should be double-wrapped carefully in paper and disposed of immediately.

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Dealing with a 'needlestick or sharps' injury

Please note that a person who has an open wound/s is at greater risk from infectious agents.

If a person sustains a ‘needlestick/sharps’ injury:

  • Administer appropriate first aid for any bleeding or embedded object. Gain assistance from a first aid attendant as required.
  • Wash the wound or skin sites thoroughly with soap and water or use a waterless cleanser or antiseptic if water is unavailable. Apply a waterproof dressing as necessary, and apply pressure through the dressing if bleeding is still occurring. Do not squeeze or rub the injury site.
  • If blood or blood products make contact with eyes, rinse the eyes gently but thoroughly (remove contact lenses), for at least 30 seconds, with water or normal saline.
  • If blood or body fluids are sprayed into the mouth, spit out and then rinse the mouth with water several times.
  • If any clothing is contaminated, remove and shower if necessary.
  • Identify the source individual or the source of the sharp if possible and assess the risk status of the source individual.
  • All staff and students who sustain a sharps injury in which there is any risk of contamination must either attend the University Medical Centre or a general practitioner for assessment, advice and, if necessary, counselling.
  • If a source individual is identified, they should be strongly encouraged to undergo blood testing.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor and complete a Confidential Needlestick / Sharps Injury or Exposure to Body Fluid Report Form as soon as practicable.
  • After hours – follow the above procedure, if needing assistance call the UWA emergency number (+61 8) 6488 2222.
  • The medical practitioner will assess the level of risk to determine further medical management. For further information relating to exposure classifications, risk factors and detailed management of needlestick injuries refer to: Government of Western Australia - Department of Health 'Management of Occupational Exposure to Blood or Body Fluid in the Healthcare setting'. The document provides information on:
    • Risk assessment and classification of occupational exposure (Appendix A)
    • Exposure management (Appendix B)
    • Exposure Management flowchart (appendix c)
    • HIV Specialists and HIV post exposure prophylaxis (Appendix D)
  • If the source is unable to be identified, follow-up will depend on the type of exposure, the likelihood of the source being positive for a blood pathogen and the prevalence of blood-borne infections in the community from which the needles or instruments come.
  • The risk of tetanus should also be determined as the person may require either tetanus immunoglobulin, a course of adult diphtheria and tetanus (ADT) or an ADT booster.

Coverage for medical expenses

Staff who sustain a ‘sharps injury’ from a contaminated or potentially contaminated source while undertaking work-related duties will be asked to lodge a workers’ compensation application to enable medical bills to be paid. For injured students, either partial or full costs may be recoverable from Medicare. Refer Group Personal Accident Plan. For further enquiries, contact Safety, Health and Wellbeing on (+61 8) 6488 3938.

Should you become aware that discarded needles and syringes are becoming a problem within your area please report it to:

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References

National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, National Code of Practice for the Control of Work-related Exposure to Hepatitis and HIV (Blood-borne) Viruses [NOHSC:2010 (2003) ].

Disease Control, Health Department of WA.  A management plan for medical practitioners for patients with HIV/AIDS in WA.  Produced by Disease Control with assistance from Health Promotion Services, HDWA. 1995.

Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). The Australian immunisation handbook 10th ed (2017 update). Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health, 2017.

Department of Health WA. Management of occupational exposure to blood or body fluids in the healthcare setting policy, December 2015.

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