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06 June 2019

The skills needed for checking needles is the same for checking for roadside bombs

The skills needed for checking needles is the same for checking for roadside bombs

Ex-army medic Francesca Burrows currently runs a Needlesticks and Biochemical Awareness course on behalf of Call for the Wild. Here she explains why learning how to protect yourself at work is absolutely vital.

I left the army two years ago after a 12 year period. Everybody knows a life on the battlefield is tough and learning how to survive in incredibly difficult situations is part of the job. I came back to Wales with some good life skills and I’m really keen to use my experience to teach people how to protect themselves while in the workplace.

I’m really passionate about safety and know there are lots of jobs out there where people are at risk of danger at work – whether it’s carrying heavy goods or being exposed to life threatening infections. That’s why ensuring excellent health and safety practice is critical.

In social housing, it’s really important people like tradespeople who are going into properties know how to manage risks and handle objects in the correct way to avoid contamination from diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV.

While doing some research for courses, I was surprised to see many needlestick and biochemical awareness courses are quite short and focus on theory. Speaking as an ex-soldier, the skill involved for checking needles is the same for checking for roadside bombs so a practical training session is absolutely key.

At Call of the Wild –which is the training company I work for- I have developed a course that gives a really realistic overview of what checking a house for needles and sharps actually involves. I don’t scaremonger – I just set up a void property how a person may find it during a normal day at work, with old furniture, rubbish and sharps scattered around the place.

Ahead of the course starting I’ll plant exposed needles around the property. Then all delegates are given a practical training session in a controlled environment so they can learn how to prevent contamination and handle sharps and needles in a safe way.

Following this, they are split into teams and are given a room each to find as many needles and sharps as possible.

I aim to make the day as real to life as possible. One of my techniques is to put fake blood on delegates' gloves. If there is fake blood on their hands with they remove them they’ll instantly know they haven’t taken them off correctly. In a real life scenario, removing gloves in the wrong way can result in contamination and life-long consequences – so it’s important they learn this during a training session.

At the end of the day we talk through experiences, and I show them where all the needles were hidden. They don’t normally find them all!

I work with Housing Associations across Wales, and have had some really good feedback. Ultimately it’s my job to prevent danger so I’m glad I can use my army experience in a positive way.

We’re running Francesca’s Needlesticks and Biochemical Awareness course on 9th July. To book on click here.