EU Regulations place greater duties on Healthcare Employers to prevent Occupational Needle Stick Injuries

The EU has adopted new Regulations, European Union  (Prevention of Sharps Injuries in the healthcare sector) Regulations 2014 Prevention of Sharps Injuries in the Healthcare Sector) to prevent needle stick injuries and blood-borne infections to healthcare workers from sharp objects such as hypodermic needles, suture needles, scalpels, and other blades, IV Catheter stylets and phlebotomy needles which are required for the exercise of specific healthcare activities which can cut or rupture the skin or otherwise cause injury or infection.

Thankfully needle stick injuries are rare and the chance of any health problems resulting from them are relatively low.  A sharps injury is an incident that causes a sharp instrument to penetrate the skin giving rise to the risk of infection and causing injury.

Unfortunately, nurses and other healthcare professionals can be exposed during their work as a result of needlestick injuries to serious infections such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C Virus and HIV.

The Regulations apply to all Employers and Employees in the healthcare sector. This includes medical practitioners, nursing assistants, dental nurses, cleaners, paramedics and home carers.

Duties on Employers under the Regulations  

  • Employers must select appropriate controls to minimise identified risks.
  • Assess the risk of injury from sharps.
  • Prevent recapping of needles
  • Provide suitable PPE to employees at risk of injury /infection
  • Ensure safe disposal of used sharps
  • Implement controls through safe working procedures and the provision of information and training to staff to minimise the risk of injury.
  • Have appropriate procedures in place to report accidents and to follow up to ensure proper care for an injured employee.

Reducing the risk of needle stick injuries

Sharp injuries occur for a number of reasons including the type of device used, procedures are undertaken, lack of training and safe use and disposal of needles and sharps. The HSE has published guidelines on Sharps injuries in which it advises all healthcare facilities to have a policy on the management of needlestick and other Sharps related injuries and blood and body fluid exposure.

This guideline has stated that Sharps can include.

  • Needles
  • Scalpel
  • Sharps tip of IV sets
  • Contaminated slides
  • Stitch cutters
  • Guide wires
  • Razors
  • Bloodstains/ contaminated glass

If you’ve suffered a sharps injury in the workplace, the Irish Claims Assessment Service is here to help. Get in touch to find out more about needlestick injury claims or use the online compensation calculator.

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