Exposure to bloodborne pathogens from sharps injuries continues to pose a significant risk to healthcare workers (HCW). The number of sharps injuries sustained by HCW is still unclear, primarily due to under-reporting. In this review a mean rate of 4.0% (range 1.0-6.2%) sharps injuries per 10000 HCW was calculated from eight studies involving more than 7000 HCW. Nurses and doctors were most at risk of sharps injuries, frequently from hollow-bore needles. Approaches to reduce this risk have included education and training on the safe handling and disposal of sharp devices, awareness campaigns and legislative action. More recently, preventative strategies have focused on needle protective devices, which may reduce the rate of sharps injuries. Introducing needle protective devices should be considered particularly in high-risk areas, after training, education, evaluation and cost-benefit analysis.