EU Directive - Risk Assessment
The directive reinforces the need for appropriate levels of training and equipment. A risk assessment must be carried out and where there is a risk of exposure, employers need to identify how exposure can be eliminated. Where exposure cannot be eliminated exposure should be prevented through:
- Providing sharps disposal equipment as close as possible to where sharps are being used
- Banning the practice of re-sheathing
- Implementing safe procedures for using and disposing of sharp medical instruments and contaminated waste
- Eliminating the unnecessary use of sharps
Employers should be aware of their legal duties under existing legislation and the new directive, which emphasise carrying out risk assessments on the prevention of sharps injuries. There should be a strategic level commitment to reducing sharps injuries.
Health and safety law is criminal law, and health care organisations can be subject to enforcement action if they fail to comply with the legal requirements relating to the prevention of sharps injuries.
In 2010, a hospital trust was fined more than £20,000 after a health care worker contracted hepatitis C following a sharps injury. The trust was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (HSE, 2010).
According to www.needlestickforum.net, 100,000 needle-stick injuries occur each year in the UK (Safer Needles Network. 2006).
Download a copy of the Council Directive 2010/32/EU or for further information you can also visit the Health and Safety Executive website.