A “sharp” is any item that can cause a penetrating skin injury and may pose a public health or infection risk. This includes syringes, needles, scalpel blades, stitch cutters and some glass, such as broken ampoules.

The main danger is of scratches to the skin or of actual puncturing of the skin by contaminated needles.

All adult social care providers have a duty of care to use sharps safely and to dispose of sharps waste appropriately within the law. These duties are supported by the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, introduced in May 2013, which apply to nursing homes and some residential care homes where medical sharps are used. The regulations do not apply to domiciliary settings but should be considered by home care managers as best practice in order to ensure safety.

This topic covers the actions that care managers need to take to ensure compliance with the law and to protect their staff from injuries related to accidents involving sharps.

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