10 - Occupational Safety: Prevention and Exposure Management (including sharps)

All care homes should have policies in place to ensure that staff are protected from occupational exposure to micro-organisms (germs), particularly those that may be found in blood and body fluids.

Important words and what they mean

Occupational exposure is exposure of healthcare workers or care staff to blood or body fluids in the course of their work.

A sharp is a device or instrument such as needles, lancets and scalpels which are necessary for the exercise of specific healthcare activities and are able to cut, prick and/or have the potential to cause injury.

Safety device or safer sharp is a medical sharps device which has been designed to incorporate a feature or mechanism that minimises and/or prevents the risk of accidental injury. Other terms include (but are not limited to) safety devices, safety-engineered devices and safer needle devices.

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:

Safe management of sharps in your care homePhoto of a sharps box

sharps handling must be assessed, kept to a minimum and eliminated if possible with the use of approved safety devices;

always dispose of needles and syringes as a single unit immediately at the point of use;

sharps containers need to be assembled and labelled correctly;

use the temporary closure mechanisms in between use;

if a safety device is being used safety mechanisms must be deployed before disposal;

follow manufacturers’ instructions for safe use and disposal;

do not re-sheath used needles or lancets;

do not store sharps containers on the floor;

ensure sharps containers are not accessible to residents or the public;

sharps containers must not be more than three-quarters full.

Significant occupational exposure

A significant occupational exposure is when someone is injured at work from using sharps or exposed to risk from blood or body fluids which may then result in a blood borne virus (BBV) or other infection.

Examples of this would be:

If you think or know you have had a significant occupational exposure you must:

report this immediately to the designated person in your care home, this is a legal requirement;

follow the local agreed process for management of an occupational exposure incident and follow the management of occupational injuries flow chart.  


Read the management of occupational exposure to Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) literature review to find out more about why we do things this way for occupational exposure.

The management of occupational exposure incidents flowchart should be used within your care home so you know what to do for an occupational exposure.

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