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Needlestick injuries can be nasty. Being accidentally pricked by a used syringe can result in anything from a minor nick to an extremely dangerous infection. In the most severe cases, a sharps injury can turn your life on its head – and even in less serious cases, it can involve high amounts of distress and anxiety. But how and where do these incidents happen, and what are your rights to claim compensation if you find yourself affected?
Table of contents:
What is a needlestick injury?
A needlestick injury describes any incident in which the skin is accidentally punctured, or badly scratched, by a syringe or other sharp object.
By their nature, syringes and sharps can puncture skin relatively easily, although the immediate wounds tend to be fairly minor. The greater danger lies in the possible infections that contaminated needles can carry. We also have a long understanding of the psychological stress that this type of incident can cause.
Sadly, accidents involving syringes and other sharps (such as medical scalpels) are common. Several years ago, the Royal College of Nursing estimated that around 100,000 needlestick injuries were reported in the NHS every year, and now the pandemic has increased this further.
Workplace needlestick accidents
Certain workplaces carry a higher risk of coming into contact with contaminated syringes, most commonly doctors’ surgeries, medical centres, and hospitals. The same can apply to jobs in waste disposal, cleaning, and tattoo parlours. However, we know the list doesn’t end there.
Construction sites and vacant buildings can attract intravenous drug users, which in turn can mean stray sharps being left in places you wouldn’t normally think to check.
Demolition and maintenance workers can also find themselves encountering syringes in unexpected places. We’ve even dealt with a needlestick injury claim from a repair worker sent to mend a broken washing machine in a laundrette.
Regardless of your profession, if you’ve been involved in a workplace needlestick injury that wasn’t your fault, you may be in a position to make a claim. Certainly you should be aware of your rights and your employer’s responsibility to avoid such accidents by maintaining a safe working environment.
What should I do if I get a needlestick injury?
First up: first aid. No matter where the accident occurs, your immediate priority should be to make the wound as safe and sterile as possible, to minimise the risk of infection.
Wash (but don’t scrub) the affected area with soap and water. If you have access to running water, allow the wound to bleed out as you hold it under the tap, then dry it and cover it with a waterproof plaster.
Then seek urgent medical advice from your GP surgery, or NHS 111. If the accident is a bad one, it can be sensible to head straight to your nearest A&E ward.
Needlestick injuries carry the very real risk of diseases such Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV – as well as other less common but equally serious conditions – so heeding the advice above is crucial. The NHS website also has further advice on how to treat a needlestick injury.
What you will need to claim compensation
Once you’ve tended to the wound, record the accident in as much detail as possible. Where, when and how did it happen? Take photographs of the incident if you can, including pictures of any bruising, inflammation or bleeding caused by the accident.
Take a note of the names and contact details of witnesses, if relevant, and where possible you should make an official log of the incident in your company’s accident book.
Keep all records of any medical appointments, prescriptions or diagnoses. Arranging to be examined in person by a medical professional is always advisable, regardless of the severity of the accident.
Also think about who, if anyone, was to blame for the incident. Most clinical workplaces are fastidious about handling syringes, but needlestick injuries can nevertheless be the result of colleagues failing to properly dispose of used sharps. Was this the case? Or perhaps poor training, inadequate cleaning, managerial oversight or even medical negligence were the root cause of the accident? Whatever the situation, it’s always helpful to gather whatever proof and evidence you can to back up your case.
We have many years of experience of dealing with needlestick injuries, so feel free to give us a call if you have any questions. We’ll always give honest advice about your individual situation.
Why should I bother making a claim?
Firstly, there’s more than one way to be impacted by a needlestick injury.
Developing a bad blood infection is the most drastic result of a sharps incident. But even if this isn’t the case, there can be significant psychological distress involved if you’re waiting – sometimes a few months – for the relevant medical tests. The possible shock of a positive diagnosis, meanwhile, can also be severe.
Be aware that even if the results come back negative, you may still have a case for a claim for the period of anxiety you’ve been through.
In all cases, we’ll look at the facts to help you decide whether you’re in a position to make a claim. Has the accident affected your physical or mental health in a substantial way? And has it impacted your job and future career prospects, or your personal life, either in the short-term or the long-term?
If you have a strong case for a claim, the amount you’re fairly due depends on the circumstances around the accident, and how badly you’ve been affected by it. You can claim for lost earnings and other expenses as well as your injury and psychological damages – we’ll always advise you on the best course of action for your individual circumstances, to ensure you don’t miss out on the compensation you’re entitled to.
Health symptoms can often take time to appear, so it’s worth being aware that you generally have up to three years from the time of the accident to make a claim. In broad terms, the earlier you’re able to contact us, the better, but even if three years has elapsed, it’s always worth getting in touch to discuss your options.
Let us help
Might you be in a position to make a claim for a needlestick injury? You’re in safe hands with Direct2Compensation. Our advice is always honest, our claims process is transparent and effective, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with our no-win, no-fee approach.
To find out more, or to start your claim today, call us on 01225 430285. If you prefer, we can call you back. After just a few minutes on the phone, we’ll have enough information to allow our solicitors to get your claim started.