Exposure in relation to blood borne viruses (BBV) is the focus within this section and reflects the existing evidence base.
The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 outline the regulatory requirements for employers and contractors in the healthcare sector in relation to:
Sharps handling must be assessed, kept to a minimum and eliminated if possible with the use of approved safety devices.
Manufacturers’ instructions for safe use and disposal must be followed.
Needles must not be re-sheathed/recapped.4
Always dispose of needles and syringes as 1 unit.
If a safety device is being used safety mechanisms must be deployed before disposal.
An occupational exposure is a percutaneous or mucocutaneous exposure to blood or other body fluids.
Occupational exposure risk can be reduced via application of other SICPs and TBPs outlined within the NIPCM.
A significant occupational exposure is a percutaneous or mucocutaneous exposure to blood or other body fluids from a source that is known, or found to be positive for a blood borne virus (BBV).
Examples of significant occupational exposures would be:
There is a potential risk of transmission of a Blood Borne Virus (BBV) from a significant occupational exposure and staff must understand the actions they should take when a significant occupational exposure incident takes place. There is a legal requirement to report all sharps injuries and near misses to line managers/employers.
Additionally, employers are obligated to minimise or eliminate workplace risks where it is reasonably practicable. Immunisation against BBV should be available to all qualifying staff, and testing (and post exposure prophylaxis when applicable) offered after significant occupational exposure incidents.
For the management of an occupational exposure incident see Appendix 10
Exposure prone procedures (EEPs) are invasive procedures where there is a risk that injury to the healthcare worker may result in the exposure of the patient’s open tissues to the blood of the worker (bleed-back).
There are some exclusions for HCWs with known BBV infection when undertaking EPPs. The details of these and further information can be found in the occupational exposure management (including sharps) literature review.
4 A local risk assessment is required if re-sheathing is undertaken using a safe technique for example anaesthetic administration in dentistry.