20th May 2013


 Issue No.  2013/10




With effect from 11th May 2013 new regulations - The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 – came into force.

These build on the existing law and provide specific detail on requirements that apply to healthcare employers and their contractors. They apply to those who are:

  • Employers whose primary work activity is the management, organisation or provision of healthcare. (Note – they do not apply where only residential care is provided);
  • A contractor working for a healthcare employer where their staff may be at risk of a sharps injury while on the premises of, or working under the management and supervision of the healthcare employer e.g laundry workers, caretakers, cleaners, waste disposal workers, bank nurses and locum doctors. A contractor’s duties will only apply to the extent of their control of work involving medical sharps.

The new regulations build on the well established duties requiring employers to ensure that risks are adequately Risk Assessed and will require that effective arrangements are in place for the safe use and disposal of sharps, provision of information and training to staff and specific investigations and actions in response to work related sharps injuries. 

So what do the new regulations introduce?
The HSE Information Sheet on the subject suggests:

Prevent the unnecessary use of sharps. Make sure that sharps are only used where they are required and make sure, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, needle-free equipment is available for appropriate procedures.

Where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the use of medical sharps then substitute safer equipment. Use safer sharps (incorporating protection mechanisms) where it is practicable to do so and having due regard for standards of care.

Prevent the recapping of needles and place secure containers and instructions for safe disposal of medical sharps close to the work area.

Information and training
This is of course already required by existing regulations but the information must now include -

  • The risks of injuries involving medical sharps;
  • The relevant legal duties on employers and workers;
  • Good practice in preventing injury;
  • The benefits and drawbacks of vaccination;
  • The support available from their employer to an injured person following needle stick injury.

and the training provided to employees must cover:

  • The correct use of safer sharps;
  • The safe use and disposal of medical sharps;
  • What to do in the event of a sharps injury;
  • The arrangements for health surveillance and any other procedures.

Accident & Injury
Specifically, the Regs impose a duty on the injured employee to notify their employer of a sharps accident.  This must be as soon as practicable.  Current notification and reporting requirements should be robust enough to facilitate this but you should ensure that they allow notification when the employee may be working out of usual 'office hours' or is off premises.  Employees must know who to and how to make a report.

Any reports must be recorded and investigated to establish the circumstances and causes of the incident.  It is expected that current accident recording systems will be used for this with the ensuing investigation being proportionate to the potential severity of the incident.

Treatment & Follow Up
If the employee has been injured by a sharp that has or may have exposed them to a blood borne virus, employers must ensure the injured person has:

  • Immediate access to medical advice;
  • Been offered post-exposure prophylaxis and any other medical treatment as advised by a doctor;
  • Access to counseling when considered appropriate.

Where employees work out-of-hours or on premises where occupational health services are present, the employer must ensure arrangements are in place to allow access to treatment in a timely manner.

It is a requirement to keep procedures, arrangements, information, training content etc. under review to ensure they remain effective and specifically to cover the procedures that are in place to implement risk control measures.

Source: HSE - www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsis7.htm





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