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Dealing with needlestick and sharps injuries in the health care setting

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2024 | Workers' Compensation |

Health care professionals dedicate their lives to caring for others. But this often comes at the risk of their well-being. Among these risks, needlestick injuries present a significant concern, potentially exposing workers to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How often do needlestick injuries occur?

Medical workers are constantly exposed to needlestick injury risks through their jobs. Many procedures that involve sharps can lead to accidental injury. These procedures include:

  • Blood draws
  • Injections
  • IV placements

A needlestick injury does more than just pierce a worker’s skin. It can potentially deliver bloodborne pathogens from an infected patient into the worker’s bloodstream, infecting them.

But how often do these types of injuries occur? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually in U.S. hospital settings.

Immediate actions following a sharps injury

If you’re a health care worker and you suffer a needlestick injury, you must act quickly. Here are the following steps you can take immediately after suffering an injury:

  • Wash the area with soap and water promptly.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor or occupational health department.
  • Seek medical evaluation for possible exposure to bloodborne diseases.
  • Follow your facility’s protocols for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which may include medications to prevent infection development.

If your needlestick injury prevents you from returning to work, you could file a workers’ compensation claim for it.

Filing workers’ compensation claims for needlestick injuries

In California, healthcare workers are entitled to workers’ compensation for workplace injuries, including needlestick injuries. You must inform your employer within 30 days of the injury for your claim to be eligible.

After reporting the injury, your employer should provide you with a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC 1). You must fill this out and give it back to your employer, who will complete the rest of the form. Your employer should provide you with a copy of the completed form while they process your claim with their insurer. Your employer has 14 days to update you on the status of your claim, though you can seek medical treatment even before your employer approves or denies your claim.

An approved workers’ comp claim means your employer will cover your medical expenses, lost wages and other related benefits if your injury or illness prevents you from returning to work. However, your employer could also deny your claim, whether due to inconsistencies with the filing or because your employer believes a pre-existing condition influenced your injury. If this happens, you can still appeal the denial by requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge. An attorney with workers’ comp experience may be able to advise you on your case and keep you updated, especially if your situation becomes complicated.