August 4, 2022

NIOSH Releases Document on Preventing Sharps Injuries to Law Enforcement Officers

NIOSH has released a document intended to help law enforcement officers avoid work-related injuries caused by sharps, which are devices with points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. Sharps typically include needles, scalpels, and broken glass, but NIOSH’s document warns that more unusual objects, such as homemade tattooing devices, may also be classed as sharps. Sharps can be contaminated by human blood, tissues, other bodily fluids, and residues of illicit substances. When contaminated sharps penetrate the skin, a person may be at risk for diseases such as hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Officers working in corrections, policing, and probation and parole may encounter sharps while searching people who are suspects of a crime, are being taken into custody, or have been incarcerated or detained. Searches of property, homes, vehicles, and other items or areas may also bring officers into contact with sharps. Surveys have found that between 3.8 and 8 percent of police officers reported needlestick injuries, but NIOSH states that “[s]harps injuries, as with many occupational injuries, are often unreported.” According to the document, immediately reporting sharps injuries is key to preventing infection and identifying injury patterns that can inform prevention measures. The document also lays out steps that law enforcement employees and employers can take to limit sharps injuries and report and seek treatment for injuries that occur.

For more information, and to download the document as a free PDF, visit NIOSH’s website.