Occupational Needle Stick Injuries*
The EU has adopted new regulations being the law in Ireland which follows EU law provides that there is an obligation on healthcare employers which would include both the HSE and doctors to prevent needle stick injuries and blood born infections to healthcare workers from sharp objects such as hypodermic needles, suture needles, scalpels and other blades. It applied to all needles which are required for the exercise of specific healthcare activities which can cut or rupture the skin or otherwise cause injury or infection.
These matters are covered under the EU regulations.
There are specific duties on employers under the regulations to include:
- Employers must select appropriate controls to reduce identified risks
- Assess the risk of injury from needles
- Prevent the recapping of needles
- Ensure that suitable PPE are provided to employees at risk of injury or infection
- To make sure that there is safe disposal of used needles
- Employers must provide information and training to staff to reduce the risk of injury
- Employer’s must have appropriate procedures in place to report accidents and to follow up to ensure proper care is provided for an injured employee
These injuries occur for a number of reasons including the type of devices used, the procedures which are undertaken and particularly issues relating to lack of training and the safe use and disposals of needles and sharps.
The HSE has published guidelines on Sharps Injuries in which it sets out that all healthcare facilities must have a policy on the management of needle stick and other sharps related injuries and blood and body fluid exposure.
The guidelines set out that sharps can include:
- Sharp tip of IV
- Contaminated slides
- Stitch cutters
- Blood stains/contaminated glass
Thankfully the number of injuries which occur are relatively small but the effect on an individual can be significant as they can cause serious infections such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C Virus, and, HIV.
It is important that employer’s particularly medical practitioners who are not in the HSE and are in private practice have the appropriate policies and procedures in place and have carried out the appropriate risk assessment.
For those wishing to read up on this issue the European Union (Prevention of Sharps Injuries in the Healthcare Sector) Regulations 2014 are the relevant regulations which medical employers need to understand and comply with.
For those employees who are injured as a result of a sharps injury it can be an extremely upsetting and worrying time.
This is part and parcel of the basic health and safety which employers need to have in place to protect the safety of their medical staff.
*Before acting or refraining from acting on anything in this guide, legal advice should be sought from a solicitor.
*In contentious cases a solicitor may not charge fees or expenses as a proportion or percentage of any award or settlement.