Needle health and safety

According to the HSE, from 11th May, there will be new regulations regarding the use of needles and other “sharps” in the healthcare industry. The new regulations will supplement the already in place health and safety legislation. There will be new guidelines set out to control the risk of injury from sharps. “Sharps”, as well as syringes,  include blades and scalpels that are used in healthcare (dentists, hospitals, clinics, laboratories). Injuries from sharps is a well known risk in the healthcare industry; concern is over the 20 or more diseases that can be transmitted which include Hepatitis B, C and HIV. The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations will come into force on 11 May 2013. The new regulations will be in support of the  EU Council Directive 2010/32/EU (the Sharps Directive), which already forms the main components of the health and safety law in the UK.

Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013
These regulations apply to employers, contractors and workers in  healthcare. These regulations help all to understand the legal aspects of working with sharps. These regulations should be followed in conjunction with The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, COSHH and RIDDOR.

Regulation 5(1)(a)
Avoid the unnecessary use of sharps. An employer should ensure that sharps are only used where necessary. Needle- free equipment should be used where possible and practicable to do so.

Regulation 5(1)(b)
Use safer sharps (using protection mechanisms).A “safer sharp” is a medical sharp that has features on it that minimises injury when handled. Essentially it eliminates recapping. “Safer sharps” are made to cover the needle after use. However, if, for example, the patient moves during the injection, the device may not protect the healthcare worker. So, care must be taken during all stages of use. Safer sharps have to be practicable. They must not compromise patient care, be reliable and the healthcare worker should have control over the device with ease of use. If the safety mechanism is integral to the device (i.e not a separate accessory) then it would be easy to use and pose minimal risk. Some kind of signal  to the user that the device is correctly activated i.e visual or tactile would be desired. If a safer sharp is not available, the employer should ensure there are safe procedures for the disposal of sharps used. In certain circumstances, where the patient supplies the needle to the healthcare worker to use, e.g for the injection of insulin, the employer should ensure that part of the risk assessment should allow for this and that there are safe systems in place.

Regulation 5(1)(c)
Prevent the recapping of needles. Needles must not be recapped after use unless the risk assessment has identified that recapping is itself required to prevent a risk.

Regulation 5(1)(d)
Place secure containers and instructions for safe disposal of medical sharps close to the work area. COSHH requires that systems are in place to dispose of contaminated waste safely. Clearly marked disposable containers must be near to the areas where the needles are used. Where the healthcare worker operates outside a clinic environment, for example in a patients home, the employers must supply disposable sharp bins.


According to the  Sharps Regulations, there must be information on training for employees. The information communicated to the employees must include knowledge of possible risks, relevant legal duties and good practice. All employees must be trained in the use and disposal of sharps. Also, the procedure for reporting an injury must be followedd rigorously. An employee must report an injury as soon as is practically possible. The record of the injury should include who was injured, when and where. Where the employee has been exposed to a blood borne virus, the employee must have immediate access to medical advice and post-exposure prophylaxis and counselling as appropriate.


Insafe safety syringe and 2010/32/EU Directive

Sources:   HSE

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