Occupational safety: prevention and exposure management (including sharps)

You may on occasions be exposed to items or substances that have the potential to be harmful. Following the Standard Infection Control Precautions will help protect yourself and others from harm.


This means coming into contact with blood/body fluid, e.g. splashes of blood or urine.
A significant occupational exposure is:

  • Any injuries from a needle, instrument, or bite which break the skin (percutaneous injury).
  • Exposure of broken skin (abrasions, cuts, eczema, etc).
  • Exposure of mucous membranes including the eye from splashing of blood or body fluids.


Any exposure to spillages or sharps should be reported to your supervisor/line manager and you should follow the specific accident reporting policy in your setting.



  • Following the Standard Infection Control Precautions can protect you from harm.
  • Follow the safe use and disposal of sharp items precautions.
  • Always take the sharp disposal container to where you perform the procedure.
  • If exposure occurs – bleed, wash, cover.
  • Follow your local reporting systems following all incidents or injury.


If you are exposed by splashes:

  • Skin should be washed with liquid soap and warm water.
  • Personal protective equipment that is splashed should be changed immediately.
  • Splashes to the eyes or mouth should be rinsed immediately in water.
  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them before you irrigate.
  • Do not swallow the water you have used to rinse your mouth.


You may need to deal with sharps such as broken glass, razor blades, scissors – in fact, anything that can cut or puncture the skin, as well as the more obvious sharps such as needles.

Needlestick injury is the most commonly reported injury amongst health and social care staff. This has the potential of transferring bacteria and viruses, including the transmission of blood-borne viruses (germs/bugs), e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Should an injury occur that breaks the skin you should act immediately.

  • Encourage the wound to bleed.
  • Do not suck the wound area or shake it.
  • Gently wash under running warm water with ordinary liquid soap and do not scrub.
  • Dry, then cover the area with a waterproof dressing.
  • Ensure the item that caused the injury is disposed of safely.