Needlestick injuries in the work place
Research carried out by the INMO in 2011 established that one third of nurses have suffered a needlestick injury. 70% of nurses surveyed at that time told researchers that they knew a friend who had suffered a needlestick injury in the workplace.
A needlestick injury arises where one’s skin is broken by a needle which has been contaminated due to contact with another’s blood or bodily fluids. Understandably, a person who has suffered such an injury will be concerned that they may have contracted a virus such as HIV or Hepatitis. The most pressing concern for a person who has suffered such an injury will be to consult with their doctor, who can perform the necessary blood tests. The doctor will assess the level of risk involved and depending on those findings, may decide to carry out further treatment. Such treatment can involve vaccinations, antibiotics and post exposure prophylactic treatment. The results of the various tests can take some time to process and this can be a very traumatic time for those affected and indeed for their loved ones.
From our experience, nurses are not the only profession affected by this type of injury. We have advised refuse collectors, hospital catering and cleaning staff and members of the general public who have suffered needlestick injuries. However, it seems that this type of injury is most common within a workplace setting.
As with all employment liability claims, there is no automatic right to compensation, purely on the grounds that the accident occurred at work. It is necessary to establish negligence, or fault, on the part of the employer. The risk of injury must have been foreseeable and the employer must have taken inadequate steps to prevent the injury from occurring. Once fault has been established, it is then necessary to establish that this fault, or negligence, on the part of the employer caused the injury suffered by the employee.
When we are contacted by a client who is seeking legal advice in relation to pursuing a claim for compensation for a needlestick injury, we arrange a consultation with a solicitor from the General Litigation team at our offices at 38/39 South Mall, Cork City. Our litigation solicitors have ample experience in cases of this nature and will take detailed instructions from the client to identify the precise cause of their accident.
From our experience, needlestick injuries within a healthcare setting are primarily caused by a failure on the part of the HSE, or private healthcare provider, to comply with their own protocols and policies. In particular, staff are injured due to the healthcare provider’s failure to provide appropriate disposal facilities for sharps and/or failure to provide adequate training to staff in relation to the proper use of the disposal facilities in place in circumstances where appropriate disposal facilities have been made available.
More generally speaking; needlestick injuries occasioned to refuse collectors, or cleaning staff, for example, are caused by a failure on the part of the employer to provide proper training to staff and/or a failure to provide employees with sufficient personal protective equipment- eg: needle resistant gloves.
Once negligence has been established, it will be necessary to seek a medical report from the treating practitioner which documents the injury suffered. Fortunately, the majority of people who suffer a needlestick injury do not contract an infectious disease, particularly, in circumstances where the necessary post exposure prophylaxis has been administered.
However, that is not to say that such a scenario never arises. For the majority of people, the injury suffered is psychological in nature and the extent and effects of such an injury varies from person.
At Cantillons Solicitors, we have successfully recovered compensation on behalf of clients who have suffered needlestick injuries in the workplace. Generally speaking, a person has two years from the date of injury/wrongdoing within which to pursue a claim for personal injuries. However, it is always preferable to seek legal advice as soon as possible as obviously, each case is different.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.