22 August 2013
What are Sharps?
‘Sharps’ are medical sharps, e.g. syringes, needles and scalpels used in specific healthcare activities and which are able to cut, prick or cause injury.
The word ‘sharps’ also includes ‘safer sharps’, which are medical sharps incorporating a feature/mechanism, e.g. a shield that slides over a blade, after use, that prevents or minimises the risk of accidental injury from cutting or pricking the skin.
Which employers* have duties under the new regulations?
The new regulations apply to healthcare employers, i.e. those whose primary work is the management, organisation or provision of healthcare, e.g. residential care homes, a pharmacy or dental practice where the primary purpose/activity is the provision of healthcare. They also apply to contractor employers working in a healthcare environment or who handle health care waste or equipment and who might be exposed to sharps that have not been disposed of correctly, e.g. cleaners, laundry workers and waste disposal workers.
Healthcare employers’ duties
Sharps injuries are a well known risk in the healthcare sector and sharps contaminated with an infected patient’s blood are able to transmit pathogens that cause more than 20 diseases, including hepatitis B and C and HIV. The new regulations build on the current law to safely manage the risks from sharps and provides for healthcare employers and relevant contractor employers to comply with specific requirements in respect of:-
The use and disposal of sharps
In addition to considering the hierarchy of control required by COSHH, for hazardous substances and pathogens, relevant employers MUST ensure that:-
Information and training
Relevant employers are specifically required to provide employees with information and training on:-
Arrangements in the event of injury
The new regulations require relevant employers to have procedures in place and to take specific actions in the event of a sharps injury, so that they can respond effectively and quickly. These include procedures for:-
*It is recommended that all employers whose employees are exposed to sharps, including veterinary and mortuary workers, consider the following measures as best practice when complying with their obligations to eliminate or reduce the risk of sharps injuries.
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