OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 35 Health Care and Industries with Biological Hazards

Section 527 Recapping needles

Many injuries, known as needlesticks, occur when used or waste needles are recapped. Needlestick injuries can expose workers to a number of bloodborne pathogens that can cause serious or fatal infections. The pathogens posing the most serious health risks are

(a) Hepatitis B virus (HBV),
(b) Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and
(c) Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – the virus that causes AIDS.

Any person who comes in contact with needles is at risk, including nursing staff, lab workers, emergency and public safety workers, doctors and housekeepers. The needles that usually cause needlestick injuries are hypodermic needles, blood collection needles, suture needles and needles used in the delivery of intravenous (IV) fluids.

Waste needles must not be recapped and should be discarded immediately in an appropriate sharps container. It is not safe to carry an uncapped needle.

Employers can reduce needlestick injuries by prohibiting the recapping, bending, or cutting of needles. The employer is responsible for ensuring that waste needles are not recapped. Workers must not recap waste needles.