Health and Safety Executive. HSE Health Service Information sheet 7 Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, Guidance for employers and employees London HSE. 2013. (accessed 8 December 2014)

NHS European Office. Briefing: Protecting healthcare workers from sharps injuries London NHS Employers. 2013. (accessed 8 December 2014)

Reducing injuries from health care sharps

02 January 2015
Volume 23 · Issue 1

Sharps incidents are one of the most common causes of injury to midwives. They are of particular concern as they carry a serious risk of harm through the transmission of blood-borne infection (NHS European Office, 2013). Injuries occur when a sharp instrument such as a needle, scalpel or stitch cutter, penetrates the skin. If the instrument is contaminated by blood then transmission of infection is possible. The injuries can cause anxiety and distress to affected midwives and can, in the most serious cases, result in infection with blood-borne pathogens such as HIV or hepatitis B or C (NHS European Office, 2013).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who police health and safety law, have stressed that there are laws in place to protect employees from sharps incidents. In R v Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust [2010], an NHS Trust pleaded guilty and was fined £12 500 with £9000 costs when a trainee phlebotomist, taking blood from an infected patient unmonitored, caught her wrist on the needle. The trainee had not been made aware of the patient's infection status and there were failures relating to risk assessments to blood-borne viruses, training and review of safe working practices.

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