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New regulations on preventing sharps injuries in the healthcare sector

23 May 2013

New regulations to control the risks posed by needles and other 'sharps' in healthcare have come into effect.

The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations came into force on 11 May 2013. Northern Ireland introduced equivalent regulations on the same date.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has introduced the new regulations to implement a European Directive. They will supplement the existing health and safety legislation that already requires employers across all sectors to take effective action to control the risk from sharps injuries.

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

Martin Dilworth, an HSE policy advisor 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)

"The new regulations are there to help minimise these risks, and we're publishing free guidance to help the healthcare industry understand its responsibilities."

Guidance for healthcare employers and employees is available from the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/needlesticks and www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsis7.htm