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New Regulations on Working with Sharps in the Health Care Sector

On 11 May, the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 came into effect in England, Scotland and Wales; Northern Ireland also introduced equivalent regulations on the same day. The HSE has introduced these new regulations to supplement existing legislation and to implement the EU Council Directive 2010/32/EU that was adopted in May 2010.

‘Sharps’ are needles, scalpels and other medical instruments that may cause injury by cutting or pricking the skin. These injuries are a huge risk in the health care sector—especially because used sharps are contaminated with bodily fluids, such as blood, that can transmit disease-causing pathogens. The new regulations will help minimise and control this risk to protect workers.

Under the new regulations, employers and contractors in the health care sector will be required to do the following:
• Have effective arrangements for the safe use and disposal of sharps. These arrangements will include:
o Avoiding unnecessary use of sharps;
o Using ‘safer sharps’, or sharps that have features or mechanisms to prevent or minimise the risk of accidental injury, where reasonably practical;
o Restricting the practice of capping needles; and
o Placing sharps bins near the point of use.
• Provide the necessary information and training to workers who may use sharps or come into contact with them. Information provided can include safety guides, posters and internal staff websites.
• Investigate and respond to work-related sharps injuries.

For more guidance on the new regulations, visit www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsis7.htm.

For resources on preventing and handling sharps injuries, contact the insurance professionals at Inspire Insurance Services today.

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