Safety On Point - Safety Legislation

Among clinicians, healthcare workers and staff, accidents involving "medical sharps" occur frequently, at an estimated rate of 3.5 million incidents per year worldwide. Many of these cases can be attributed to mishaps wih IV catheters, hypodermic needles, blood collection devices and vascular access needles.

A needlestick injury or case of blood exposure can devastate the healthcare institution, the practice and the victim, who needs to be tested for possible transmission of blood-borne infection. For a victim who contracts an infection or a disease, there is medical care and even the prospect of long-term health consequences.

Taking measures to avoid needlestick and blood exposure is the best defense, and it makes good sense.

Safety On Point

Australia & New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are devoid of country-wide legislation in regards to needlestick safety. It is being discussed in parliament but nothing has come of this to date.

In October 2010, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provided guidelines that recommend the critical aspects of infection prevention and control, including the handling of sharps devices. These guidelines assist healthcare workers and facilities in developing protocols and processes for infection prevention through a risk-management framework.

These guidelines recommend:

Safe handling of sharps

Sharps must not be passed directly from hand to hand and handling should be kept to a minimum.
Needles must not be recapped, bent or broken after use.

Disposal of single-use sharps

The person who has used the single-use sharp must be responsible for its immediate safe disposal.
Used disposable sharps must be discarded into an approved sharps container at the point-of-use. These must not be filled above the mark that indicates the bin is three-quarters full.

Access the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare 2010.

In Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria have directives concerning sharps injuries and needlestick prevention for their public health systems.

New South Wales

Sharps Injuries - Prevention in the NSW Public Health System (PD2007_052)

Summary: The purpose of this policy directive and associated guidelines is to prevent or minimise sharps injuries in the NSW public health system by directing organisations to develop a sharps injury prevention program utilising a risk management framework. The document also provides guidance for organisations to meet OHS legal obligations with regards to sharps injuries.


In Queensland, healthcare facilities are required to develop and implement a sharps safety program as per Standard 3.1.1 of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS).

The safety programs should include the following components:

  1. Engineering controls
    1. Implementing medical safety devices with engineering controls
    2. Use of sharps disposal systems
  2. Education programs
  3. Work practice controls
    1. Avoiding recapping
    2. Ensuring sharps are not passed by hand (using a tray)
    3. Sharps containers for disposal are nearby after use
    4. The person who uses the sharp disposes of it
  4. Following product complaint processes for sharps safety devices which fail to function as required.
  5. Risk assessment and data analysis
  6. Reporting injuries and exposure to bloodborne pathogens


Under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), the employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment without risks to health. This includes providing a safe working environment, processes, information, training, supervision, and where appropriate personal protective equipment.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council's (VTHC) Occupational Health and Safety Unit, outlines steps to take for OHS reps to take regarding needlestick prevention.

Helpful Links/Guidance:

Alliance for Sharps Safety and Needlestick Prevention in Healthcare

Safe Hands - a network to promote health care worker safety in the Asia Pacific region.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)




Australia, New Zealand


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