Home Healthcare Workers: How to Prevent Needlestick and Sharps Injuries.

Needlestick and other sharps injuries are a serious hazard in any healthcare setting. Contact with contaminated needles, scalpels, broken glass, and other sharps may expose healthcare workers to blood that contains pathogens which pose a grave, potentially lethal risk.


Home healthcare workers can be at risk for needlestick or sharps injuries when they:

  • Handle needles that must be taken apart or manipulated after use.
  • Dispose of needles attached to tubing.
  • Manipulate the needle in the client.
  • Recap a needle.
  • Use needles or glass equipment to transfer body fluid between containers.
  • Fail to dispose of used needles in puncture-resistant sharps containers.
  • Lack proper workstations for procedures using sharps.
  • Work quickly.
  • Bump into a needle, a sharp, or another worker while either person is holding a sharp.


  • Establish a bloodborne pathogen control program that meets all of the requirements of the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard (http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/index.html)
  • Eliminate the use of needle devices whenever safe and effective alternatives are available.
  • Provide needle devices with safety features.
  • Provide sharps containers for workers to bring into clients’ homes.
  • Investigate all sharps-related injuries.
  • Provide post-exposure medical evaluations.


  • Avoid using needles whenever safe and effective alternatives are available.
  • Avoid recapping or bending needles that might be contaminated. How to Prevent Needlestick and Sharps Injuries
  • Bring standard-labeled, leak-proof, puncture-resistant sharps containers to clients’ homes. Do not assume such containers will be available there. Promptly dispose of used needle devices and sharps, which might be contaminated, in the containers.
  • Plan for the safe handling and disposal of needles before use.
  • Store sharps containers out of the reach of children, pets, and others not needing access.
  • Secure used sharps containers during transport to prevent spilling.
  • Follow standard precautions, infection prevention, and general hygiene practices consistently.
  • Participate in your employer’s bloodborne pathogens training program.
  • Help your employer select and evaluate devices with safety features.
  • Use devices with safety features provided by your employer.
  • Report any needlestick and other sharps injury immediately to your employer.

If you experience a needlestick or sharps injury or are exposed to the blood or other body fluid of a client during the course of your work, immediately follow these steps:

  • Wash needlesticks and cuts with soap and water.
  • Flush splashes to the nose, mouth, or skin with water.
  • Irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor.
  • Immediately seek medical treatment.

This is one in a series of six fast fact cards developed to provide practical advice for home healthcare workers and is based on NIOSH Hazard Review: Occupational Hazards in Home Healthcare, NIOSH Pub No. 2010–125.

Telephone: 1–800–CDC–INFO | TTY: 1–888–232–6348
Email: cdcinfo@cdc.gov | Web: www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/healthcare
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012–123
February 2012

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