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Occupational Health


Accidental exposure to human blood, other body fluids or tissue could lead to contracting a blood-borne virus such HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Avoiding the risk

Vaccination - Hepatitis B infection can be effectively avoided by vaccination. Staff should complete a vaccination course against hepatitis B and have a blood test to check their response to the vaccine. If staff have not completed the vaccination programme and working with human blood or tissue, then an appointment at Occupational Health should be arranged as soon as possible.

Learn and follow safe sharps practice - The most common exposure risk comes from careless handling of hypodermic needles, intravenous cannulae, surgical and laboratory sharps.

  • Broken skin on hands should be covered with a waterproof plaster.
  • Disposable gloves should be worn when working with blood: they may not stop a penetrating injury, but they do reduce the volume of blood inoculated
  • Where possible use safety- needles if taking blood
  • Never re-sheath needles.
  • Dispose of used sharps into a proper sharps bin immediately after use.
  • Do not carry used sharps dispose immediately in sharps bin positioned next to the donor.
  • Ensure adequate supervision to ensure confidence and competence.

Significant exposure

The risk of infection varies according to the pathogen involved and the circumstances of the accident. If you do have an accident, do not assume that you are safe. If from a patient they may be unaware that they are infected, or have not disclosed their status or have it recorded in their medical notes. An assessment by an experienced clinician will be necessary. Seek advice from the Emergency Department or Occupational Health during office hours – if Occupational Health closed report the incident on the next working day.

An exposure is significant where:

  • exposure is caused by a puncture wound, cut, scratch or by a splash into your eye, mouth or onto broken skin.
  • the material involved is blood, serum, cerebral spinal fluid, genital secretions or other body fluids if visibly blood-stained or fresh tissue samples

The risk of disease transmission is increased if the injury is deep, or caused by a hollow bore needle (especially if used for venous or arterial puncture) or there is visible blood on the device.

A splash of blood or body fluid onto visibly intact skin is NOT considered a significant risk unless extensive or prolonged.

Immediate action following a potential exposure incident

 - encourage the wound to bleed, but do not scrub the wound: this may increase tissue damage

 - wash any wound or contaminated skin with soap and clean water. Cover with a sterile dressing

 - if blood is splashed into the eye or mouth, stop and wash out immediately with tap water or saline

 - report the incident to the person on charge – supervisor, ward manager/duty doctor [in hospital setting]. Don’t delay, or fail to report the accident even if you were not following correct procedures.


Attend OH or, if closed, follow the hospitals out-of-hours procedure for sharps accidents.