Prevention of sharps injuries


Injuries caused by needles and other sharp instruments are one of the most common and serious risks to healthcare workers. With 40,000 incidents reported each year (and at least as many unreported), this is a major cause for concern for the NHS. The EU Directive on the Prevention from Sharp Injuries in the Hospital and Healthcare sector aims to reduce such incidents by achieving the safest possible working environment.

The purpose of the Directive is:

  • to achieve a safe working environment
  • to prevent injuries with all medical sharps including needlesticks
  • to protect workers at risk
  • to set up an integrated approach establishing policies in risk assessment, risk prevention, training, information, awareness raising and monitoring
  • to put in place response and follow-up procedures.

Implementing the Directive in the UK?

The EU law came into into force across the UK in May 2013 and applies to all employers, employees and contractors providing healthcare services in the NHS, voluntary, private and independent sector. The regulations - Health and Safety: (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 - will add new requirements to the already comprehensive health and safety legislation which applies to NHS organisations. Some of the specific new requirements for employers include:

  • promoting the safe use and disposal of medical sharps
  • providing detailed information and training for employees
  • responding effectively if an injury occurs
  • reviewing procedures on a regular basis

In partnership with the NHS European Office, we have produced a helpful briefing detailing the new regulations and the implications they will have for healthcare organisations, for both employers and staff. Download the briefing - Protecting Healthcare Workers from Sharps Injuries.

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