Despite health and safety regulations, cleaning can be a hazardous occupation, especially for operatives working in areas where there are sharps (needles and other sharp objects used to puncture the skin). Some areas are considered to be ‘safe’, such as health care settings and care homes, where there are strict rules about waste handling. However human error may occur so operatives should remain vigilant.
Other environments that cleaning operatives can expect to encounter this potential hazard include public toilets, rubbish bins and bags, and communal areas. Unfortunately, contaminated materials are sometimes even deliberately planted on hand rails, waste bins, or under tables placing operatives in a great deal of danger.
Sharps injury can be defined as the penetration of the skin by a needle or other sharp object, which has been in contact with blood, tissue or other body fluids before the exposure. Such injuries carry serious health risks, placing the victim at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Here at Jangro, we are committed to ensuring the safety of workers in our industry. With the correct management, the risk of accidents from handling sharps can be reduced. Here are our top tips to prevent sharps injury:
Look for the signs of drugs litter, wherever you are working
As well as syringes and needles, there are other, less obvious, items which should be treated as if they are sharp, including
- Drinks cans or foil containers that are discoloured and most likely out of shape
- Aluminium foil that has burn marks down the centre
- Squares of paper that are folded to form an envelope
- Spoons that are burnt or discoloured or both by heat
- Tobacco paper packets or shredded cigarettes
- Small phials and bottles
Provide adequate training
All staff should be given training on dealing with waste matter before working in areas where there is a greater risk of coming into contact with sharps. There is also an expectation that all operatives working in a healthcare setting will have training not only by their company but the hospital trust as well (through their respective infection control team).
In settings where the workplace task is likely to lead to significant exposures on a regular basis, the Department of Health Green Book indicates that it would be prudent to offer immunisation to staff.
As an employer, you have an obligation to ensure that your staff work in a safe environment. Write a Safe System of Work (SSOW) and Risk Assessment or a combination of both which is called RAMS. This process will help all operatives identify the hazards; consider the nature of the work and the location.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Key items of PPE include puncture-resistant gloves which meet the European standard of EN388, outer body clothing that is fit for purpose and robust enough to resist needlestick punctures, and safety shoes/boots with protective toecaps, which are also penetration-resistant
Download our new sharps handling guide, which examines the various types of sharps that operatives may encounter in their day to day work; how infectious materials can affect them and their family; what methods to adopt when faced with removing sharp objects from the workplace; and finally the methods to be employed to reduce and prevent the risk when removing sharps.