05/14/2004

European Healthcare Workers at Risk!

It is estimated that 1 million needlestick injuries are suffered by healthcare
workers in Europe each year. More than 20 dangerous bloodborne pathogens are
transmitted by contaminated needles, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and
HIV.

Percutaneous injury from hollow bore blood filled sharp objects is the primary
route through which healthcare workers occupationally acquire blood borne and
potentially fatal diseases. High-risk procedures include blood collection, IV
cannulation and percutaneously placed syringes. Suture needles, scalpel blades
and glass items used daily by hospital staff also offer real risk if these
devices have been in contact with contaminated blood.

The majority of sharps injuries are suffered by nurses and occur in patient
rooms and the operating theatre, but doctors and other medical staff are also
victims. Ancillary staff such as cleaners and laundry staff and other
downstream workers, are also at risk. Additionally medical devices
incorporating needles are frequently used for self-treatment outside of the
conventional healthcare setting and this can create additional dangers for the
general public. In an average hospital, workers incur approximately 12 to 30
needlestick injuries per 100 beds each year. However, it is estimated that
between 60% and 80% of incidents go unreported. If suffering an injury from a
contaminated 'sharp', the risk of transmission of infections is 1 in 3 workers
for hepatitis B, 1 in 30 for hepatitis C and 1 in 300 for HIV.

The victim's mental suffering can be considerable. A lengthy process of
diagnostic procedures must be followed before it is known whether a serious
disease has been contracted or not. It needs to be recognised that the risk of
sharps injuries may be a strong disincentive to taking up a medical career and
may increase the scarcity of experienced medical staff.

A RESOLUTION BY EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS CALLING FOR EU ACTION
TO PREVENT MEDICAL SHARPS INJURIES demands EU Action on these dangers.
Injuries caused by needles and other sharp medical devices and the related risk
of potentially fatal disease transmission remain a major threat to the health
and safety of healthcare workers across the European Union today.
In addition, the distress, sickness and absenteeism resulting from sharps
injuries constitute a considerable strain on the already limited human
resources in the medical profession.

We call upon the EU Institutions to take the lead in the battle against sharps'
injuries and to prioritise this issue so that it receives the attention it
deserves and ensure implementation of proven best practices across the European
Union.

Common Aim

We call on the EU Institutions to communicate clear policy and requirements to
Member States in view of ensuring


  • Consistent compliance with existing EU Worker Safety and Health Directives
    among EU healthcare providers, and in particular:
  • Better information and education of healthcare workers on the risks of
    exposure, prevention methods and effective incident reporting
    Safer working practices, including the use of protective clothing, safe
    disposal, and effective response in case of injury
  • Use of 'Sharps Protection' Technology especially for high-risk medical
    procedures.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work