Safety Tips Disease Recordkeeping and reporting Workplace exposure

Treating a sharps injury


Health care workers who are exposed to needles – for example, those administering a COVID-19 vaccine – are at risk of sharps injuries and exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a sharps injury as “a penetrating stab wound from a needle, scalpel, or other sharp object that may result in exposure to blood or other body fluids.” Sharps injuries can occur in many ways:

  • Disposal-related activities (e.g., overfilled sharps container, sharps container too far away, leaving device on a surface)
  • Activities after use and prior to disposal, such as item disassembly or a multistep process
  • Recapping a used needle

If a worker experiences a sharps injury, CDC recommends following these steps:

  • Wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes.
  • Apply direct pressure to the area to control bleeding.
  • Seek medical attention to determine any risk associated with exposure.
  • Report blood and body fluid exposure immediately, as it poses a risk of disease transmission. Reporting the incident as soon as possible will assist professionals in obtaining a test from the source.
  • Remember to complete an incident report (where applicable) so that a root-cause investigation can occur and help prevent similar types of incidents from occurring to others.

For more information about preventing needlesticks and other sharps injuries, go to

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