An overwhelming number of employees especially in the health service have been recklessly exposed to number serious and potentially deadly illnesses including HIV, and Hepatitis C, whilst working with infected patients.
The risk comes from infection through injury to the finger or other parts of the body from a needlestick (syringe).
The Government passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in 2000 which provides safety for health service workers. Employers must regularly evaluate their employees’ practices to ensure they are not endangering themselves.
The risk with needlesticks isn’t restricted to the health service. If you are in any job where you are exposes to risk from needlesticks your employers should carry out a careful assessment to give you proper protective equipment or avoid these risks.
Unfortunately this won't always have happened and you might be in the position where you have had an injury from a needlestick or other sharp object and been sent for tests for HIV and Hepatitis C.
Remember that employers have a duty to carry out a risk assessment of your work practices. Local authority workers are often particularly at risk, as well as hospital workers, because they have to do cleaning work, remove bags of rubbish and undertake gardening duties where needlesticks may have been left in the ground.
Anyone at risk of handling rubbish should be provided with proper gloves and these gloves should give protection against needlesticks.
Lawford Kidd acted for a gardener working in an occupational establishment who suffered three needlestick injuries when his duties included maintenance of a garden that was a haunt of drug addicts. He suffered psychological consequences and after court action a settlement of £9000 was made.
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