Today at the 4th European Biosafety Summit in Warsaw results from 7,000 Healthcare workers show that, although the new Sharps Directive has improved practice in the workplace, in reality a lack of an explicit ban on recapping, lack of risk assessments, access to safety devices and lack of education and awareness raising are still major problems that need to be addressed.

This year’s Summit is held in the Polish Parliament, with a keynote address by the Polish Deputy Health Minister Igor Radziewicz-Winnicki 6 months after the deadline for Member States to transpose and implement the EU Council Directive on prevention of sharps injuries in the hospital and health care sector (2010/32/EU).

The results of a survey of European nurses will be presented by Paul De Raeve, General Secretary of the European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN). The feedback from almost 7,000 respondents across Europe suggests that in the workplace the majority of nurses are seeing some positive progress towards meeting the requirements of the Directive. Approximately 70 per cent of respondents indicated that they had access to safety engineered devices, but only for certain procedures. Regrettably 30 per cent had no access whatsoever to safety devices.

Other areas of concern include a scarcity of workplace risk assessments and the absence of awareness raising and training specific to preventing sharps injuries. Also, the provision of training in the correct use of safety engineered devices appears very variable and, in general, nurses are not being involved in identifying the most suitable safety devices prior to purchase.

The required ban on the recapping of needles has, surprisingly, not been implemented in some workplaces. A clear warning signal is also apparent concerning the protection of workers who deliver healthcare in community settings and in long-term care homes, where little seems to have been done to comply with the directive.

Cliff Williams, Co-Chair of the European Biosafety Network, said:

I am delighted that we are co-hosting a 4th European Biosafety Summit in Warsaw six months after the legislation has come into force; this is a great opportunity for people who will have worked for many years to help achieve these legislative requirements to come together and ensure that the Directive is implemented effectively.

The results of a survey of 7,000 healthcare workers published today show the positive benefits of the new Sharps Directive but that there are major problems in practical implementation which still need to be addressed. It is disturbing that more than 40 percent of respondents to the survey have themselves suffered an injury with a used needle.”

Workers, employers, policy makers and politicians will join together to emphasise the critical importance of preventing life-threatening risks faced on a daily basis by those that care for others. It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million occupational needlestick injuries occur in the EU every year. These injuries can result in the transmission of more than thirty dangerous infections, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

The timing of the Summit will provide the perfect opportunity to provide an update on the transposition and implementation of the Directive and the practical steps that employers and workers are taking to comply with it, as well as challenges being faced in the Member States.

Also speaking at the Summit are representatives from the European Commission, national and European trades unions, nursing associations and federations and policy makers from the European institutions. The Summit follows on from the success of past European Biosafety Summits held in Madrid, Dublin and London.

The EU Directive on prevention from sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector was adopted by the European Council of Ministers on 11 May 2010 and was published in the European Journal (OJEU) on 1 June 2010. Each Member State was required to bring into force national legislation to implement the Directive by 11 May 2013.