Increase in needle-stick and splash injuries

Flu injection photo

Following an increase in the number of occupational exposure incidents during February, we would like to remind staff about the importance of following standard precautions.

Standard precautions are a single set of activities to break the chain of infection and reduce the transmission of micro-organisms from both known and unknown sources. They should be used as a minimum in the care of all patients.

The key elements of standard precautions are:

  • hand hygiene is recognised as being the most effective method for reducing the spread of infection
  • personal protective equipment (PPE) prevents the healthcare worker and their clothing from becoming contaminated with blood or body fluid
  • safe and appropriate handling and disposal of used sharps and clinical waste is essential to prevent unnecessary exposure to risks of infection and ensures waste enters the correct stream for final disposal
  • safe handling of linen is essential to prevent health care workers and linen handlers from being exposed to the risk of infection
  • decontamination of equipment and the environment is essential to ensure provision of safe clean care and protect the patient
  • aseptic technique is essential for invasive procedures in order to protect the patient from the introduction of pathogenic microorganisms from the health care worker and the environment.

There are also a range of additional precautions that can be applied with patients who are known or suspected to have infections that are highly transmissible e.g. pulmonary tuberculosis, clostridium difficile, norovirus, MRSA etc. These precautions are associated with the route of transmission of the micro-organism as described below: 

  • respiratory precautions: reduces the risk of airborne and droplet spread micro-organisms e.g. influenza, tuberculosis, SARS
  • enteric precautions: reduces the risk of micro-organisms spread by the faeco-oral route e.g. norovirus, hepatitis A, clostridium difficile
  • contact precautions: reduces the risk of micro-organisms spread by contact e.g. MRSA, Hepatitis B & C, AIDS, cold sores, conjunctivitis, scabies (prolonged contact). 

To ensure your safety you should: 

  • presume that all body substances (blood, excreta, secretions etc.) contain infective micro­organisms
  • reduce the risk of infection by wearing disposable gloves and apron when in contact with blood and body fluids and when touching mucous membranes or non-intact skin
  • recognise that skin is a protective barrier and that micro-organisms can be reduced or removed by undertaking adequate hand hygiene. Breaks in the skin, cuts and abrasions can provide an entry point to infective micro-organisms and should be covered with waterproof dressings
  • recognise that mucous membranes allow absorption of body fluids. Wearing protective eye wear will prevent the risk of absorption by splashing or by inhalation of some virulent airborne micro-organisms
  • recognise that maintaining a safe clean environment is essential for preventing the spread of infection.

Standard precautions are designed to protect you from becoming accidentally contaminated with infective substances and being injured by blood contaminated items; they also reduce the risk of infection spreading from one patient to another via unwashed hands or via inadequately decontaminated equipment or  environment.

For more details please see the Trust safe practice guidelines.

Published 19th March 2015 

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