Health & Safety Department

Sharps, glass and splashes from substances

How to reduce the risk of accidents with glass, sharps and splashes from substances with a risk of infection and what to do if you have an accident or incident.

Preventing glass/sharps accidents or splashes from substances with an infection risk

Some of the most common injuries reported to the Health and Safety Department are those caused by accidents with glass or sharps. Most are not too serious but a significant proportion will require hospital treatment, usually this is just stitches though incidents involving tendon or nerve damage, or even cut arteries, may result. Of note is that some, especially those involving sharps used in containment laboratories, carry an associated risk of infection. In containment laboratories where the micro-organisms being handled infect via the percutaneous route, the use of sharps and glass items should be avoided wherever possible.

When these types of accidents are investigated it is apparent that most incidents can be avoided with good management systems in place, consisting of initial instruction and training on correct procedures and with ongoing supervision and monitoring. In order to minimise the likelihood of accidents arising as a result of poor working practices, all individuals using sharps items or substances with an infection risk should receive appropriate instruction and training on how to work safely when handling glass and sharps and, in particular, how to avoid needlestick injury and splashes.

Model written instructions that could be used are provided in Appendix 1 and these should be supplemented with on-the-job training.

Accident Procedure

If you have an accident with glass or sharps, including needlesticks, or been splashed with a substances with an infection risk, you should seek emergency attention.

The Health and Safety Department has produced detailed guidance on emergency procedures and a flow chart outlining these. It would be helpful to display this flow chart in the workplace after ensuring all staff are trained in the correct procedures if an accident occurs.

Disposal of discarded sharps

Guidance for staff on the disposal of discarded syringes, needles or blades found in or around University premises.