New health and safety regulations came into force on May 11th that could reduce the volume of clinical negligence claims caused by sharp injuries. These injuries represent one of the most significant dangers in healthcare – not only can sharps perforate the skin and cause nerve damage, swelling, bleeding, tenderness and other short-term health problems, but they can also transmit blood-borne viruses that can be impossible to successfully treat. In some cases, sharps are used as offensive weapons, but even accidental sharp injuries will require the victim to receive injections or take antibiotics in order to reduce the likelihood of them becoming seriously ill.
The Sharp Instrument in Healthcare regulations and their Northern Irish equivalent will call for healthcare providers to ensure that sharps are handled carefully and that people do not have to make a medical negligence compensation after being struck by these objects,. These will cover all contractors and employers in the healthcare sector and should reduce injuries and improve health and safety.
So what are the new sharps regulations? Essentially, these can be boiled down to three main points.
1 – Healthcare organizations must have implemented effective regulations relating to the disposal and use of sharp objects, including so-called ‘safer-sharps’. When safer sharps can be used when reasonably practicable, they must be used. The practice of recapping needles will be reduced – employers ought to perform risk assessments whenever recapping is required, and employers involved in recapping must use suitable tools, appliances or equipment in order to eliminate their risk of injury.
Furthermore, sharp bins for the safe disposal of sharps must be implemented near to their use. These should be secure containers that are clearly marked, so that people do not inadvertently put their hands into them. Healthcare organizations may therefore be able to prevent compensation claims for clinical negligence.
2 – Workers who are involved in the use of sharps must be properly trained and provided with relevant information. This can include written instructions relating to the safe use of sharp pains or any other relevant health and safety regulations. Any employee who works with sharps or who is at a risk of injury should be provided with training and information.
3 – When sharp-related injuries result from an incident or accident at work, employers must investigate these occurrences and take action in response to them. Regular reviews of policies and procedures should take place so that sharps use policies are effective and up-to-date.
Therefore, records must be taken of any incident involving a sharps injury and procedures should be put in place to prevent the same injury occurring again. Businesses should also consider providing counselling to injured members of staff. Treatment, such as medication, examination by medical practitioners and other ways to prevent infection should also be provided to the injured employee.
These requirements will apply to people who are working under a healthcare employer’s authority, as well as those who are on the premises of the employer, and they relate to people who supervise, uses or manages the disposal or utility of medical sharps, as well as any activities that pose a risk of injury relating to these devices.
How serious are clinical negligence claims involving sharps injuries?
Unfortunately, sharps injuries can be particularly serious and it is well known that this kind of injury can lead to fatal diseases including HIV or Hepatitis C, and even when these illnesses are not contracted, the affected party can suffer from serious anxiety and emotional distress from the fear of these illnesses.
More than 20 diseases are associated with sharp injuries and these are a well-known hazard in the healthcare sector. While needlestick injuries can affect workers, they can also injure members of the public. Blood tests are usually required, with follow-up examinations sometimes required for as long as one year after the initial injury.
If you have suffered a needle stick injury or sharps injury in the workplace or while a patient in a healthcare setting, you should speak to medical negligence solicitors to start a claim. There are no excuses for the hazardous use of sharps or needles – even though these guidelines are new, they supplant previous health and safety regulations that have existed for years. Healthcare providers should be aware of the potential sharps have to lead to serious health problems and should have long-term strategies in place that can eliminate these risks.
Chelsey Lewis has been working in the healthcare sector for years and has seen how important health and safety regulations are first-hand. She has supported patients in handling compensation claims for personal injury and has advised employers on how to uphold their duties to protect their patients. She lives in a small house in Sheffield and enjoys walking her dogs in the countryside.