New Regulations have come into force on 11th May 2013 to reduce the risks posed by sharps and injuries in the HealthCare Sector. The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 can be found on the governments legislation website.
The regulations introduced by the Health and Safety Executive in order to implement an European Directive will supplement existing regulations and legislation. Such legislation already provides a base line for employers to comply with throughout the industry in relation to Sharps and to control the risks of injury. The new regulations put in place further safeguards to prevent the risk of infection of healthcare workers and
Employers and contractors working in the healthcare sector will be required to:
• Have effective arrangements for the safe use and disposal (including using ‘safer sharps’ where reasonably practicable, restricting the practice of recapping of needles and placing sharps bins close to the point of use)
• Provide the necessary information and training to workers
• Investigate and take action in response to work related sharps injuries
Sharps injuries can occur throughout the healthcare sector and standard procedures are in place to deal with the same which are as follows:
• Encourage the wound to gently bleed, ideally holding it under running water
• Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap
• Don’t scrub the wound whilst you are washing it
• Don’t suck the wound
• Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing
• Seek urgent medical advice (for example from your Occupational Health Service) as effective prophylaxis (medicines to help fight infection) are available
• Report the injury to your employer.
The new European Directive contains many requirements which are already within the existing legislation in the UK. They do however build on the legislation in the following ways:
An employer must ensure that the use of medical sharps at work is avoided so far as is reasonably practicable; when medical sharps are used at work, safer sharps are used so far as is reasonably practicable.
The new regulations also state that needles that are medical sharps are not capped after use at work unless that act is required to control a risk identified by an assessment undertaken pursuant to regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999(1) and the risk of injury to employees is effectively controlled by the use of a suitable appliance, tool or other equipment in relation to the safe disposal of medical sharps that are not designed for re-use employers must provide written instructions for employees, and ensure that there are clearly marked and secure containers that are located close to areas where medical sharps are used at work.
In addition to the above the regulations insist that an employer must review at suitable intervals the policies and procedures in place to meet the requirements of the above so as to ensure that those policies and procedures remain up to date and effective.
Provisions must be put in place to ensure that appropriate training and information is provided to employees as well as set arrangements in how injuries are dealt with and notification procedures.
For more information visit the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/needlesticks/ or see our section on workplace injuries.