First Aid at Work

(The Health & Safety First Aid Regulations 1981) 

Employers have a legal duty to make arrangements to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. It is essential that they receive immediate attention and that an ambulance is called in serious cases. A person within the workplace should be appointed to take charge of the first aid arrangements. These regulations do not require employers to provide first aid for anyone other than their own employees. 

Sharps Injuries

Employers must have a sharp injuries policy in place, to ensure employees are following the correct protocol to ensure minimal risk of needlestick injury. 

What are sharps? -‘Sharps’ are needles, blades (such as scalpels) and other medical instruments that are necessary for carrying out healthcare work and could cause an injury by cutting or pricking the skin. 

What is a sharps injury? – A sharp injury is an incident, which causes a needle, blade (such as scalpel) or other medical instruments to penetrate the skin. This is sometimes called a percutaneous injury. 

What to do if you receive a sharps 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 

● Don’t scrub the wound whilst you are washing it 

● Don’t suck the wound 

● Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing 

● Seek urgent medical advice (for example from your Occupational Health Service) as effective prophylaxis (medicines to help fight infection) are available 

● Report the injury to your employer. 

The main risk from a sharps injury is the potential exposure to infections such as blood-borne viruses (BBV). This can occur where the injury involves a sharp that is contaminated with blood or a bodily fluid from a patient. The blood-borne viruses of most concern are: 

● Hepatitis B (HBV) 

● Hepatitis C (HCV) 

● Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

The transmission of infection depends on a number of factors, including the person’s natural immune system. We know the number of injuries each year is high, but only a small number are known to have caused infections that led to serious illness. However, the effects of the injury and anxiety about its potential consequences, including the adverse side effects of post-exposure prophylaxis can have a significant personal impact on an injured employee.