Health and safety professionals have been given advice on how new laws can help them reduce needle, scalpel blade and other sharps injuries in the healthcare industry.
New UK and EU laws coming into force this spring require employers to provide better protection against accidents caused by this equipment. And the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Healthcare Group held an event for the first time in Northern Ireland on Friday 22 March, in Belfast, giving advice to healthcare organisations on what they need to do to comply.
The regulations are designed to reduce needlestick and other sharps injuries, at the same time preventing healthcare staff from being exposed to the diseases and infections they may carry.
The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 implement the EU Directive 2010/2013 on preventing sharps injuries in the hospital and health and social care sector, introducing new and updated measures to protect staff. This includes a requirement to provide safer needle systems, warding against injury to those using needle devices, as well as anyone involved in laundry, decontamination and waste management.
IOSH Healthcare Group chair Douglas Blair said: “The number of sharps injuries we see in our health and social care facilities are way too high and that’s a problem, as with the right protective measures in place, they are actually preventable.
“We simply can’t afford to be putting our doctors, nurses and other staff in the sector at risk of disease and illness. They need to be safe in the work they do to be able to provide the service needed to help others recover and at the same time, this will also mean patients and clients are safer too.”
A recent report* found that needlestick and sharps injuries account for 17 per cent of accidents to NHS staff and are the second most common cause of injury.
Mr Blair added: “We welcome this regulation as an important step in reducing that statistic. There is so much innovation in healthcare equipment and techniques that our organisations can harness to improve health and safety in their workplaces. These take away a large portion of the direct contact with sharps instruments – the very thing putting people most at risk.”
The event, which members of IOSH Northern Ireland Branch also attended, saw speakers from Belfast’s Health and Social Care Trust and its Health and Social Services Trust, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Northern Ireland and the Health Protection Agency.
*National Audit Office report, April 2003