New Sharps Regs Take Effect in Britain

The regulations implement a European Directive and build on already existing Health and Safety Executive rules.

New regulations to control the risks posed by needles and other sharps in health care have taken effect in England and Northern Ireland. The Health and Safety Executive enacted them to implement a European Directive, and they supplement existing laws that already required employers in all sectors to take effective actions to control the risk from sharps injuries.

Health care employers and contractors must have effective arrangements for the safe use and disposal of sharps, including the use of safer sharps, restricting the practice of recapping needles, and placing sharps bins near the point of use. They must train and educate workers and investigate and take action in response to all work-related sharps injuries.

"Sharps injuries are a well-known risk in the health care sector,” said Martin Dilworth, an HSE policy advisor in biological hazards. “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 minimize these risks, and we're publishing free guidance to help the health care industry understand its responsibilities."

Guidance for health are employers and employees is available at www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/needlesticks and www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsis7.htm.

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