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EASHW report highlights sharps injury risk

November 24, 2015

A new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EASHW) has highlighted the risk sharps injuries pose to healthcare workers.

Titled 'Current and emerging issues in the healthcare sector, including home and community care', the publication addresses some of the main safety risks people working in healthcare face. 

It highlighted sharps as the main cause behind behind blood-borne occupational infections, normally as a result of accidents or unsafe practices. Home healthcare workers were cited as being particularly at risk, with patients and their families often failing to dispose of sharps properly. This means contaminated items could be left around the home or in waste baskets, while syringes and lancets are often left uncovered.

However, the EASHW report also stated that it expects some positive changes to sharps safety to come into force in the near future. It believes national legislation across the EU will be amended to take into account the Framework Agreement on prevention from sharps injuries as part of the EU's Council Directive 2010/32. As a result of this, the organisation predicts enforcement in the form of targeted inspections and cooperation between authorities will improve.

"The same precautions regarding prevention from sharps injuries in [the] health sector cover also other professions in the health sector (e.g cleaning services, waste disposal, etc). It is expected that these measures will have an impact on services and quality of care in a positive way," the report stated.

Overall, the EASHW said further research is needed to gain greater insights into specific health and safety risks within healthcare. It pointed to a current lack of comparable data on working conditions in the EU as something that is holding this back at present. 

"More detailed data are needed to enable prioritisation of specific risks and groups of workers most at risk," the organisation stated. 

Tackling stress

Other issues highlighted by the report include the ageing workforce in healthcare and what new risks they may pose. The publication also cited policies aimed at improving work–life balance and reducing wage differences between men and women as important. Indeed, with stress and fatigue one of the major causes of sharps injuries, ensuring employees have a healthy work-life balance could go a long way to making workplaces safer.

The subject of stress at work has been discussed at length by the EASHW recently. It has revealed this is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in Europe, accounting for half of all time off taken for illness. To tackle this problem, the EASHW is campaigning for stress and psychosocial risks to be assessed and managed in the same systematic way as other workplace risks.

Nicolas Schmit, minister of labour, employment and the social and solidarity economy, representing the Luxembourg EU Presidency, stated: "We stand by the fact that addressing OSH risk factors in workplaces, including psychosocial risks, stands to benefit the European economy in concrete terms through reduced absenteeism, accident and injury rates and retaining skilled workers, leading to a healthy and productive workforce."

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