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Needlestick incidents


A needlestick injury is an incident, which causes a used needle, blade (such as scalpel) or other medical instruments to penetrate the skin. This is sometimes called a sharps or percutaneous injury. In a “Clinical Environment” It can also refer to an “eye splash” injury, where blood or other body fluids make contact with the eye.

First aid for needlestick injury

If you suffer an injury from a sharp which may be contaminated:

  • Encourage the wound to gently bleed, ideally holding it under running water

  • Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap. Leave under running water for a minimum of 10 minutes, ideally 20 minutes.

  • Do not scrub the wound whilst you are washing it

  • Do not suck the wound

  • Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing from the First Aid box. 

Following actions

Staff or Postgraduate students who suffer a needlestick injury should contact Occupational Health during office hours (9am-5pm, Monday to Friday) on 0113 3432997 who will help to assess the situation and advise an appropriate course of action. Undergraduate students or visitors should attend A&E or contact their GP.

Outside of office hours, on bank holidays, university “closed” days, or in event of there being no one available in Occupational Health, please contact your line manager for guidance based on the risk assessment for the area.  For those determined to be high risk and for incidents occurring at the weekend please attend A&E at the Leeds General Infirmary or St. James’s University Hospital.

All needlestick accidents incidents and near misses, including those treated in-house and externally need to be reported via the University’s online accident reporting system Sentinel.


Ensure you have undertaken an appropriate risk assessment if there is any possibility of a needlestick injury in the area of work i.e. before one occurs. Your Health and Safety Manager or Occupational Health can advise on this.

If a needlestick injury occurs which is thought to be contaminated with a biological agent contact Occupational Health or A&E immediately.

Post exposure prophylaxis requirement will be the exception even in clinical areas.

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