Contaminated objects

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Any object contaminated with blood or blood products from an infected person must be regarded as a potential source of BBV infection for those handling it, if a means of delivering the virus into the body exists. Do examples include sharp objects but also „soft? waste, such as discarded dressings, contaminated clothing or, linen.  The surfaces of damaged motor vehicles can also harbour contamination following road traffic accidents, specifically if those involved have suffered traumatic injury and blood loss. 

It must be assumed that there is a risk of infection unless the item concerned has been decontaminated by effective means.  Sharps include any items that can cause laceration or puncture wounds. These present a special hazard if there is contamination by blood although they may not be visibly soiled, they should be handled with care if contamination is known or suspected. 

Examples of sharps include discarded hypodermic needles; instruments used in invasive operations, including blood-sampling, surgery, dentistry, acupuncture, ear-piercing and tattooing. Emergency services' cutting equipment, broken glass and jagged metal.

For safety and security, small sharps should be placed in sharps disposal containers until decontaminated or incinerated. There should never be a need to re-sheath a used syringe needle, and by using an appropriate sharps container this can always be avoided. Whenever possible, separation of the needle from syringe should also be avoided as this increases the risk of blood spillage and sharps injury.
It is worth mentioning that some sharps bins have mechanisms that can safely remove needles.

There are a number of initiatives to reduce the number of contaminated sharps injuries, including the use of safer needle devices and needle exchange programmes.  Medical, dental, laboratory or other equipment that is reusable and has been in contact with blood or body fluids, and which has not been decontaminated adequately, may present a risk of infection for both workers and patients. Reusable devices must, therefore, be decontaminated between uses on different individuals. If an item of equipment is to be sent for examination or repair, it should, wherever possible, be decontaminated before despatch.

Learning Outcomes:
  • IPOSi Unit one LO2.1, 2.2 & 2.3