How to avoid needle injuries when injecting

Have you ever used your teeth to unsheathe a needle when handling a lively ewe or scratched yourself when injecting a scatty heifer? If so, you could be one of many farmers putting their health at risk.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is reporting growing evidence that farmers are suffering serious injuries through using hypodermic needles in an unsafe way when administering medicines to animals.

They are reporting horrific and potentially life threatening injuries which are often easily avoidable by addressing management practices.

Hand injuries are understandably the most common injury, leading to:

  • Amputation of affected fingers
  • Bacterial infections such as cellulitis (a skin infection)
  • Sepsis (a potentially fatal condition characterised by widespread inflammation and blood-clotting in the body)
  • Local allergic reactions to what has been injected including and in some cases, anaphylactic shock.

The most common reasons for these injuries are accidental self-injection through handling restless animals and/or unsafe needle practices.

“It cannot be stressed strongly enough that using needles in an unsafe way carries risks of potentially fatal injury as well as serious injury,” say the VMD.

Do’s and don’ts when using needles to inject stock:


  • Make sure the animal is safely restrained
  • Take and use portable sharps bins (to avoid the need to resheath needles); see picture below)
  • Use sharps bins which have needle remover notches to avoid manual removal of needles
  • Replace sharps bins promptly; the maximum fill line should never be exceeded
  • Consider using automatic resheathing safety devices
  • Report injuries or illness sustained by farmers when handling veterinary medicines to the VMD, as part of its Suspected Adverse Reaction Scheme. This will allow greater understanding of the scale of the issues affecting those who inject animals with medicines on a regular basis.

Report suspected adverse reactions on-line at


  • Use your teeth to remove needle shields
  • Resheath needles, where possible. Instead, immediately put the unsheathed needle into the portable sharps bin

More on this  topic

See further information on needle safety

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