BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) has been aiming to protect healthcare workers for over 30 years. Following the announcement of the European Council Directive on sharps injury prevention, BD has focused its attention on assisting healthcare organisations with their transition to a safer working environment.
The EU Directive on sharps injuries prevention had to be implemented into country law by all EU member states prior to 11th May 2013. These steps have been taken to reduce the risk that faces healthcare workers every day across Europe. A sharps injury can result in possible infection from 30 potentially dangerous blood-borne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV and even the fear of having contracted a blood-borne disease cause great emotional distress.
The UK has incorporated the EU Directive into national law by producing the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document: Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013. These new regulations provide legal guidance and have been put into place in the UK to help combat the 100,000 injuries that are estimated to occur every year in the UK alone[iv]. The Regulations build on existing law and provide specific detail on requirements that must be undertaken by healthcare employers and their contractors.
The Regulations state that the unnecessary use of sharps should be avoided and that, “The employer must substitute traditional, unprotected medical sharps with a ‘safer sharp’ where it is reasonably practicable to do so[v].” ‘Safer sharps’ refer to medical sharps that incorporate mechanisms that can help to prevent the risk of accidental injury; for example, syringes and needles with a shield or cover that slides or pivots to cover the needle after use.
Safer sharps are proven to significantly reduce the incidence of occupational needlestick injuries, and to be most effective when introduced along with improved training and workplace procedures. The Regulations advise involving the end users of the equipment and their representatives in the selection of safer sharps and in training to help ensure that they use new equipment safely.
Information must now be provided to employees at risk of sharps injury and the Regulations suggest safe operating systems, safety guides, posters, and information on internal staff websites.
Alexandre Conroy, President Europe, EMA and the Americas comments, “The implementation of the EU Directive in the member states is a milestone moment for ensuring healthcare worker safety in Europe as it requires that risks of sharps injury or infection are prevented. Hopefully this will ensure that Europe’s healthcare workers benefit from the provision of the proven preventative measures that are widely available. BD has long supported the safe use of medical sharps and continues to innovate and provide ‘safer sharps’ products, accessible resources and advice. These efforts will help us to achieve the wider goal of reducing sharps injuries and the potentially life-changing and traumatic effects an injury can have on healthcare workers.”
The new Directive and a conversion to ‘safer sharps’ may appear daunting at first, however it is vital that healthcare organisations are aware of the legal implications that now apply. Where possible, BD is assisting healthcare organisations with improving healthcare worker safety and compliance with the new legislation on sharps injury prevention. This has been carried out through training, the provision of educational resources, advice, and support on carrying out risk assessments which is a cornerstone to ensuring compliance.
A useful tool available to all is BD’s Europe-wide safety website which provides an overview of BD’s healthcare worker safety programme which takes a holistic approach to safety. Health economics, risk assessment, conversion management and training are all crucial elements.