Healthcare safety sharpened up

10 May 2013

New safety standards for the use of needles and other 'sharps' in the healthcare profession will come into force on Saturday.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is introducing the new regulations following a directive from the EU. They will supplement the existing legislation that already requires employers across all sectors to take effective action to control the risk from sharps injuries.

As part of the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations, employers and contractors working in the healthcare sector will be required to have effective arrangements in place for the safe use and disposal of instruments, including using 'safer sharps' if possible, restricting the practice of recapping needles and placing sharps bins close to the point of use. Necessary training should also be given to workers, and work-related sharps injuries must be investigated.

Martin Dilworth, an HSE policy adviser in biological hazards, said: "Sharps injuries are a well-known risk in the healthcare sector. Medical sharps contaminated with an infected patient's blood can transmit pathogens that cause more than 20 diseases, including hepatitis B and C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)."

He added that the new regulations should help minimise the risks, while free guidance is being issued to help the healthcare industry understand its responsibilities.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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