Statistics from the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) show that over 80% of farm workers and 73% of swine veterinarian have accidentally stuck themselves with a needle while giving injections to livestock. Most accidental needlestick injuries are minor, but secondary results could be skin infections, allergic reactions, or a wound that might need surgery.
Vaccines are the most common product that animal handlers inject into themselves. In swine farrowing settings, hormone products used to induce labor in pigs carries a warning against exposure to or accidental injection by pregnant humans. If possible, in the pig barn, pregnant employees should not handle hormones.
In addition to medical issues caused by rushed or thoughtless needle handling, mechanical problems can occur. Bent needles should never be straightened and used needles should be disposed of in proper sharps containers.
Appropriate low-cost sharps containers are empty plastic detergent or fabric softener bottles with the lid screwed on tightly. Milk jugs are too flimsy for sharps containment and should not be used. When the sharps container is full, it should be tightly capped, sealed with heavy tape, and labeled that it contains sharps.
Different counties have different methods that they recommend for sharps disposal. A call to the county environmental services department can provide information for producers’ sharps disposal.
UMASH has been at the forefront of the needlestick injury issue by providing bilingual fact sheets and producing videos to help farmers teach their animal caretakers. Needlestick prevention posters and more are available to producers on the internet at umash.umn.edu/needlestick-prevention.