Needle stick or sharps injury


What is a needle stick or sharps injury?

Needle stick or sharps injury is the term used to describe an accident where a person’s skin is accidentally punctured by a hypodermic needle or sharp medical device such as a scalpel.

People at increased risk of needle stick or sharps injuries include;

  • nurses
  • doctors
  • surgeons
  • dentists
  • dental nurses
  • phlebotomists
  • hygienists
  • laboratory technicians
  • the police
  • prison and probation services
  • customs and excise
  • social workers
  • funeral workers
  • piercers and tattooists
  • building and demolition workers

There are two main types of needle stick injury:


1. Minor injury

If test results show that no serious disease or infection has been transmitted, it is classified as a minor injury.


2. Serious injury

This is where you contract a severe or life threatening disease or illness, and may qualify for a higher level of compensation.

The three main viruses that people suffering a Needlestick injury or sharps injury are at risk of developing are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

There is also a small risk of other infections being transmitted via contaminated blood such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that is part of the herpes family of viruses. Symptoms are similar to flu or glandular fever, and includes a high temperature (fever), sore throat and swollen glands.

Most cases of glandular fever are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), one of the most common viruses to affect humans. Common symptoms of glandular fever include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • sore throat
  • swollen nodes (glands) in the neck
  • extreme tiredness

If you injure yourself with a used needle at work, report the incident to your supervisor or manager immediately. There may be procedures in place you need to follow.

Click here for What you should do if you have a Sharps injury 


The Law

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The overarching health and safety law which places general responsibilities on employers to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees. The act requires employers to provide a safe working environment in relation to sharps injuries, together with safe equipment, training, information and instructions on safe systems of work.

The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013
These regulations build on the requirements of existing regulations including the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
These Regulations require your employer to assess the risk of exposure to biological hazards including blood-borne viruses and put measures in place to eliminate exposure to such hazards. Where it is not reasonably practicable to do so, employers need to prevent the exposure through using safety-engineered devices, designing safe systems of work and providing protective equipment. Information and training must be provided to all workers exposed to blood-borne viruses. Health surveillance in the form of follow-up blood tests is required where there has been a significant exposure to blood borne diseases.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Requires Employers to assess the risk of sharps injuries from work procedures and activities. Employers must provide information and training on the risks of sharps injuries and what measures employees should take to reduce injury risk. Instruction and information on measures to be taken in the event of an injury should be provided.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
Regulates the selection of suitable equipment for example sharps bins and instructions and information on how to use them safely.

Reporting of Diseases Injuries and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
The Regulations require employers to report known exposures to blood-borne viruses following a sharps injury.  Cases where a worker develops a blood-borne virus as a result of a sharps injury or other occupational exposure need to be reported retrospectively if the employer is aware of them.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992
Regulates the selection of suitable gloves, aprons and goggles where the risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses cannot be eliminated or reduced effectively through other measures.

Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
Employers must provide first aid treatment following a sharps injury, including out-of-hours support.

Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977
These regulations require the employer to consult with safety reps on choice of equipment, such as safety engineered devises and gloves. Employers must also allow safety reps paid time off to inspect sharps injury reports, and work premises for safe working practices and environment in order to prevent sharps injuries.


What should you do?

Not only do you go through the trauma of the sharp object piercing your skin, you also have to worry that you may have contracted a blood-borne virus (BBV). The blood tests which are taken at the time of the accident can take three to twelve months before you can have a follow-up blood test to check for viruses. If you have suffered a needle stick injury or sharps injury at work you may be entitled to compensation.

Resources available

How to win your workplace personal injury claim

How to prepare a discrimination schedule of loss for the employment tribunal

How to write a grievance about discrimination at work

How to use the discrimination questions procedure

Disciplinary action and capability

Health and Safety Dismissal

Surviving Capability and Performance Management

Employee Representative Guide for non-union workplaces


You will need to prove that your injury was caused by the negligence of your employer. At Employee Rescue we believe that information is your friend. How to win your Workplace Personal Injury Claim is your essential step-by-step guide to making your personal injury claim for compensation of up to £25,000.00 to cover losses you have suffered as a result of an injury at work. These are called Employer Liability claims. The book takes you quickly and simply through essential information on;

  • Your legal rights
  • Remedies
  • How to get your compensation
  • Templates
  • The latest information on personal injury

The Pre-Action Protocol

You start your claim using the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury (Employers’ Liability and Public Liability) Claims. The Employee Rescue Guide explains what you must prove, in order to be successful, such as;

  • Identifying that there is a person, company or organisation to make the claim against.
  • Showing that the person, company or organisation owed you a duty of care to avoid your accident and injury, and could have taken steps to avoid the situation.
  • Proving that your injury was caused by the failure of the responsible person or organisation to take reasonable steps to avoid causing your accident or injury.


Best of the web 

NHS Choices

Sharps Injury Helpline – 0845 053 6755

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Department of Health – Safe management of health care waste

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

European Biosafety Network

The International Sharps Injury Prevention Society

Citizens Advice – Personal Injuries

Department for Work and Pensions – Compensation, Social Security Benefits and lump sum payments




This resource is published by Employee Rescue Limited. Please note that the information and any commentary on the law contained herein is provided for information purposes only. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. Employee Rescue accepts no responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material contained in this publication.

Further specialist advice should be taken before relying on the contents of this publication. You can send an e-mail to for such specialist advice if required.


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