Protecting Law Enforcement Officers from Sharps Injuries

Law enforcement officers may be exposed to needlesticks and other sharps injuries, putting them at risk for serious illnesses. Employers of law enforcement officers should take steps to protect officers from the risk of occupational exposures.

Two law enforcement officers standing next to a patrol car

Approximately 3.8%-8% of police officers reported having a needlestick injury [Cepeda et al. 2017; Davis et al. 2014]. Work-related tasks such as pat down searches, executing property searches or arrest warrants, may expose officers to contaminated sharps. Being injured by contaminated needles or sharps can put officers at risk for bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Employers and officers should follow OS­HA’s bloodborne pathogen standard to prevent needlestick and other sharps injuries.

If you experience a needlestick or sharp injury

  1. Wash the injury site with soap and water.
  2. Report it to your supervisor promptly.
  3. Seek immediate evaluation by a medical professional.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently published a Workplace Solutions document with recommendations to prevent and reduce work-related needlestick and other sharps injuries among law enforcement officers. Recommended steps for employers include:

  • Planning
  • Training
  • Treating and reporting injuries
  • Providing appropriate tools and personal protective equipment

Recommended steps for officers include:

  • Taking proper safety measures
  • Reporting needlestick and other sharps injuries
  • Following steps for safe sharps handling, transportation, and disposal

To read more on these recommendations, visit Reducing Work-Related Needlestick and Other Sharps Injuries Among Law Enforcement Officers.


Cepeda JA, Beletsky L, Sawyer A, Serio-Chapman C, Smelyanskaya M, Han J, Robinowitz N, Sherman SG [2017]. Occupational safety in the age of the opioid crisis: needle stick injury among Baltimore police. J Urban Health 94(1):100– 103.

Davis CS, Johnston J, de Saxe Zerden L, Clark K, Castillo T, Childs R [2014]. Attitudes of North Carolina law enforcement officers toward syringe decriminalization. Drug Alcohol Depend 144:265–269. drugalcdep.2014.08.007

Page last reviewed: August 30, 2022