The E.U has now adopted a Directive to prevent needle stick injuries and blood borne infections to Healthcare workers from sharp objects such as needle sticks. The objective of the Regulations is to achieve the safest possible working environment by preventing injuries to workers caused by all medical sharp instruments. The Regulations apply to all employers and employees in the Healthcare sector.
Thousands of workers in Ireland in the Healthcare sector are at risk from needle stick or sharp injuries. Workers may become infected by blood borne pathogens (viruses, bacteria and other micro-organisms) and as a result suffer a severe injury. HIV and Hepatitis B (HBV) or (CHBV) are the most common risks but there are more than 20 blood borne diseases that can be transmitted.
In Europe it is estimated that there are over 1 million needle stick injuries per year. It is not just medical professionals who are at risk. While Nurses working in acute medical situations are rated at being at the highest risk of injury many other workers such as cleaners and laundry staff are also at risk.
The Regulations implement specific control measures to protect employees at risk and require an appropriate response in the event that an incident occurs. The regulations define sharps as “objects or instruments necessary for the exercise of specific healthcare activities which are able to cut, prick or cause injury or infection. This includes equipment such as needles, blades and other sharp medical instruments.
Speaking about the new Regulations Liam Moloney Personal Injury Solicitor in Naas said today “employers need to be aware of the existence of these new Regulations which relate to the risk posed by sharp instruments to those working in the Healthcare Sector. Healthcare workers are at significant risk of contracting blood borne viruses if exposed to infected blood or body fluids. This can be via the mucous membranes (eyes, mouth and nose) through broken skin or through an inoculation injury where the skin is punctured or scratched by a needle or sharp device that has been used in a medical procedure. This is known as a needle stick or a sharp injury”.
He added “employers must now ensure that there is a risk management system in place to protect the safety, health and welfare of employees and to provide a safe working environment for them”.