Needle stick injuries are defined by Council Directive 2010/32/EU of 10 May 2010 based on an agreement concluded in between the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers' Association (HOSPEEM) and the European Public Services Union (EPSU), the recognised European social partners in the hospital and healthcare sector. The agreement is based on Article 155(2) TFEU, under which agreements concluded at Union level shall be implemented either in accordance with the procedures and practices specific to management and labour and the Member States or, in matters covered by Article 153 TFEU at the joint request of the signatory parties, by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission.
The Directive, which reproduces the text of the social partners’ agreement in an annex, states that needle-stick injuries fall under the category of injuries caused by medical sharps. Sharps are defined as ‘objects or instruments necessary for the exercise of specific healthcare activities, which are able to cut, prick, and cause injury and/or infection. Sharps are considered as work equipment within the meaning of Directive 89/655/EEC on work equipment’.
The Directive states that a risk assessment should be carried out to identify how exposure to needle-stick injuries could be eliminated and whether possible alternative systems could be put into place. Where a risk is identified, safe procedures for using and disposing of sharp medical instruments and contaminated waste should be identified and implemented, and the unnecessary use of sharps should be eliminated. Further, effective disposal procedures should be implemented, and clearly marked and technically safe containers for the handling of disposable sharps and injection equipment placed as close as possible to the assessed areas where sharps are being used or to be found. Risk of infection should be prevented by the development of an overall prevention policy, offering training, conducting health surveillance procedures and using personal protective equipment. Vaccinations should be offered where appropriate.