Date Published: 9 August 2012

UK RCN urges swift implementation of regulations to protect nurses from medical sharps injuries

The UK Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has urged swift implementation of new EU regulations to protect staff from sharps injuries. Today, 9th Aug 2012, the RCN welcomed the launch of a consultation by the Health & Safety Executive concerning proposals to introduce regulations to reduce the risk of medical sharps injuries. The purpose of these regulations is to protect health and medical staff from sharps injuries, which can result in life-threatening infections such HIV and hepatitis.

It has been estimated that one million needlestick injuries occur in the European Union each year, with over 100,000 of those workplace injuries occurring in the UK. The RCN lobbied the European Union for a directive leading eventually to these regulations being agreed in 2010. The regulations must be implemented into UK law by May 2013.

In preparation for implementation of the new regulations concerning medical sharps, safer practice has been encouraged by the issuing of guidance and through joint workshops for medical staff and other health workers.

Commenting on the consultation, Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said:

" Nurses and healthcare assistants continue to be at risk in the workplace from sharps injuries which should be prevented. Nobody should go to work fearing that they could be exposed to serious infections such as Hepatitis and HIV simply because steps haven't been taken to avoid preventable accidents. The RCN played a key role in calling for the EU Directive, and we welcome the fact that this is progressing and that the Health & Safety Executive is consulting on how best to make the regulations work. The RCN will be responding to the consultation in full and will be using a wealth of evidence to show the seriousness of this issue and the benefits to employers if they protect their staff. We would urge individuals and organisations to do likewise. We trust that the regulations will then be implemented as soon as possible so that nursing and other health staff cease to be at risk."

The subject of workplace injuries due to needlestick injury from medical sharps is not new. This website has mentioned this on previous occasions including e.g. half of nurses injured by needles while a third fear contracting HIV or hepatitis on 21 November 2008.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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