August/September 2008 (vol. 05/2)

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Research Plus

Healthcare workers cause needlestick injuries in waste handlers

A study of clinical waste handling at a UK specialist waste treatment facility found deficiencies in worker practice that increased their risk of a sharps or needlestick injury. More significant was the finding that ‘serious errors’ by healthcare staff through the incorrect disposal of used hypodermic needles and other sharps in thin-walled plastic waste sacks place waste handlers at risk of infection with bloodborne viruses. The study comprised confidential questionnaires, structured interviews and discrete observations of waste handlers, as well as a review of accident and injury records. Forty sharps injuries (37 from hypodermic needles) had been recorded in a 3.5-year period – 34 from careless discarding of sharps into waste sacks and six from incorrect closure of sharps boxes. Fifteen waste handlers received hepatitis B immunoglobulin and two received HIV post-exposure prophylaxis.

Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2008; 52: 281–286.


Occupational Health at Work August/September 2008 (vol. 05/2) pp39