Needlestick Injuries Often Ignored

Animal Ag Workers Need to Think Safety When Working With Needles, Drugs

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Those who work with livestock need to remember to be careful around needles when giving injections. Needlestick injuries are common but often not reported. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Needlestick injuries in animal agriculture are a common occurrence but are frequently ignored when they happen and often go undocumented. However, injections of livestock drugs into humans can lead to major health problems or even death.

Needlestick injuries need to be reported to healthcare professionals, and more education for animal ag workers about how to prevent these injuries is needed, according to one expert.


In a webinar titled "Avoiding 'Sticky' Situations in Ag: A Discussion on Sharps," Jeff Bender, director of the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine, said the topic of needlesticks in animal agriculture is often a neglected one.

Ag has a high rate of injuries with ag workers eight times more likely to die on the job than all other workers, he said. They also have a 40% higher rate of non-fatal injuries compared to non-farm workers.

Bender said animal ag workers have an even higher rate of injuries than other ag workers. Animal ag workers have 6.7 injuries per 100 workers, while non-animal ag workers have 5.5 injuries per 100 workers.

"The cost of ag injuries are enormous," Bender said. "Roughly $7.6 billion in medical and lost production costs are seen."

Research by the University of Minnesota from 2012 to 2016 shows those who work and live on farms with livestock were eight times more likely to be diagnosed with zoonotic enteric (related to the intestines) infections than those who do not work and/or live on farms with livestock. Specifically, there were 18.5 cases per 10,000 Minnesotans that live on these farms versus 14.7 cases per 10,000 without livestock.

Additional research into injuries on Minnesota swine operations from 2003 to 2011 showed that, on average, 80 workers were seriously injured. Nearly 34% were due to human-swine interactions.

"Needlestick injuries in this research were not separated out," he said.


Bender said needlestick injuries are common with those working around livestock. A recent Minnesota survey said 80% of farmers who have livestock accidentally stuck themselves, he said. Other results included 64% of female veterinarians, 73% of swine vets and 81% of zoo vets reported at least one career needlestick injury.

Injuries from needlesticks tend to be in the hands and legs. A review of 59 articles from 1953 to 2011 dealing with this type of injury showed 67% of the needlesticks were to the hands while 9% where to the legs. Of these cases, 98% reported seeking medical attention with some having to be hospitalized. The average stay in a hospital was three days.

Bender said that often the concern about needlestick injuries is what is being injected into livestock.

Vaccines, antibiotics, hormones and sedatives are given to livestock and can have a negative effect on humans. Often these vaccines are not tested on humans, as they are not intended for them, so healthcare professionals don't know what effect they might have on someone who was injected, he said.


Bender said there are various precautions those who work with livestock can take to avoid needlestick injuries.

The first thing to do is just slow down and don't rush when working with needles. Those doing this job need to use proper equipment and use proper techniques, he said.

Another precaution workers should take is to not uncap needles with their mouth and not keep needles in their pocket. Users should also discard all unusable needles in proper containers.

If a person is accidentally injected, UMASH in the past has advised washing the skin with soap and water immediately. Report the injury to your supervisor and call your healthcare provider, UMASH stated.

Bender said workers should consider using the one-handed scoop method when working with needles. This is when a cap is placed on a flat surface and scooped up using the needle tip. The downside to this method is that it may be difficult to find a flat surface to use while administrating injections to livestock, he said.

"This is something folks can figure out how to do to avoid needlestick injuries," he said.

Employers should train employees -- who must work with needles and injecting livestock -- safe needle handling, safe injection procedures and knowledge about the types of drugs being used. In addition, workers should receive training in proper animal restraining techniques.

"All needlestick injuries have to be reported to management," Bender said. "Often workers believe if they report these incidents, they will be punished, but seeking medical care after being injected with drugs is extremely important."

Needlestick injury resources can be found at

To see more on which products can be especially dangerous if injected in the human body, as well as how to properly dispose of needles, see….

Also read a firsthand experience with needlestick injury at….

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Russ Quinn