Safety On Point - Safety Legislation

Among clinicians, healthcare workers and staff, accidents involving "medical sharps" occur frequently, at an estimated rate of 3.5 million incidents per year worldwide. Many of these cases can be attributed to mishaps wih IV catheters, hypodermic needles, blood collection devices and vascular access needles.

A needlestick injury or case of blood exposure can devastate the healthcare institution, the practice and the victim, who needs to be tested for possible transmission of blood-borne infection. For a victim who contracts an infection or a disease, there is medical care and even the prospect of long-term health consequences.

Taking measures to avoid needlestick and blood exposure is the best defense, and it makes good sense.

Safety On Point


On May 11th 2013, Austria's needlestick regulation (Nadelstichverordnung, NastV) came in to effect. The NastV implements guidelines from the EU Sharps Directive 2010/32/EU into national law and demands the safe handling of medical sharps in the health sector, as well as in other similar workplaces such as laboratories and nursing homes.

NastV complements and further defines the existing work safety regulations (Arbeitsschutzgesetz, ASchG) and the regulation on biological agents (VbA) across the nation, and has the goal to prevent injuries with medical sharps such as needles.

Sharps safety is a particularly prominent issue for Austrian healthcare workers, as more than a third of all workplace accidents in Austrian hospitals were needlestick injuries. NastV aims to minimise the risk of injury when workers come into contact with medical sharps and outlines the responsibilities of the employer and workers themselves. The legislation also recommends that employers should establish written instructions and other measures with any subcontractors, cleaning crews and sharps disposal services) in order for these workers to observe the law.

The required measures of NastV

NastV requires employers in the healthcare sector to assess and determine the specific risks of injury from medical sharps. They must consider various situations in which workers could injure themselves and consequently come in contact with potentially infectious or hazardous materials. These situations include, for example, taking blood samples or disposing of instruments.

In general, medical devices incorporating safety and protection mechanisms should replace traditional instruments, apart from those that don't have such safety devices available.
The recapping of needles breaches the guidelines in all circumstances and is prohibited.
Disposal containers should be placed close to the workstation and special instrument racks should be established on which all pointed or sharp instruments are consistently aligned.

The legislation also outlines the obligation of the employer to provide information and training for employees who have to deal with medical sharps. The training must be provided before the start of the activity and be repeated at regular intervals. NastV stipulates that employers must have a process to ensure that staff can meet their legal health and safety obligation to report any injury or near- injury. Furthermore, measures to reduce time pressure and shifts that are overly long are to be analysed.





EU Directive 2010/32/EU Legislation Overview

The EU Directive 2010/32/EU is implementing a Framework Agreement on the prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector.

The scope of the Directive applies to all workers in the hospital and healthcare sector who are exposed to a risk of injury from medical sharps while at work on the healthcare premises. Employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure safe working practices which includes following guidelines and directives set out by the EU.

The purpose of the Directive is to achieve the best possible working practices by the introduction of safer sharps systems as well as dedicated reporting procedures and staff training.

The Directive requirements build on existing requirements such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The deadline for member states of the European Union to implement appropriate changes in needlestick and medical sharp protection was May 11th 2013. Now this has passed and the UK, along with other EU states, has had to ensure its policy comes in line with the EU Directive 2010/32/EU in order to comply and reap the benefits for its healthcare workers.

Helpful Links/Guidance:

href="">Official Journal of the European Union L/134/66 (2010) Council Directive 2010/32/EU

Health & Safety Website

Health & Safety Information Sheet

Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

Safer Needles Network

Royal College of Nursing guidance

European Biosafety Network




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