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May 9, 2013

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Regulations sharpened up for health-care employers and workers

New regulations to control the risks posed by needles and other ‘sharps’ in health care are about to come into force.

The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations will take effect on 11 May 2013. The new regulations implement European Directive 2010/32/EU, which, in turn, implements the Framework Agreement on protection from sharps injuries in the hospital and health-care sector, which was adopted on 10 May 2010.

They will supplement existing health and safety legislation that already requires employers across all sectors to take effective action to control the risk from sharps injuries. €ᄄ €ᄄEmployers and contractors working in the health-care sector will be required to:

  • have effective arrangements for safe use and disposal (including using ‘safer sharps’ where reasonably practicable, restricting the practice of recapping of needles, and placing sharps bins close to the point of use);
  • provide the necessary information and training for workers; and
  • investigate and take action in response to work-related sharps injuries.

Martin Dilworth, an HSE policy advisor in biological hazards, said: “Sharps injuries are a well-known risk in the health-care sector. 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).€ᄄ €ᄄ

“The new regulations are there to help minimise these risks, and we’re publishing free guidance to help the health-care industry understand its responsibilities.”€ᄄ €ᄄ

The guidance is available on the HSE website at

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