Workers, employers, policy makers and politicians from across Europe unite at the European Biosafety Summit to support the prevention of potentially fatal occupational injuries faced by healthcare and public service workers

The European Biosafety Summit held today will highlight the risk of potentially fatal injuries from used needles and other medical sharps and report on what progress is being made to prevent them through the implementation of measures in line with the EU Directive on preventing sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector, published one year ago today.

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.

European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Laszlo Andor will address the Summit alongside the Irish Minister of Health and Children, Dr James Reilly.

Also speaking at the Summit are representatives from the European Parliament, national and European trades unions, nursing associations and federations and policy makers from the European institutions. The Summit follows on from the success of the 1st European Biosafety Summit held in Madrid last year.

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

“People are suffering all over Europe from injuries and emotional stress that can easily be prevented. The EU Directive, once implemented, will help to protect workers and patients – it is no longer acceptable to let these easily preventable injuries continue to occur. It is exploitation of hard working people dedicated to caring for others.”

The 2nd European Biosafety Summit will also call on national governments to implement the EU Directive on prevention from sharps injuries through national legislation without delay or compromise.

In order to assist with the effective and consistent implementation of the necessary measures in all EU Member States, the European Biosafety Network has published a tool kit for the implementation of the European Directive on prevention from sharps injuries (2010/32/EU).

Soon to be published UK research, from a survey of NHS occupational health, and health and safety staff shows there is wide consensus (73%) that the fear of needlestick injury and associated health risks causes significant stress amongst healthcare workers. The independent study from MindMetre Research found that 87% of respondents believe that the use of safety devices should be mandatory to ensure healthcare worker safety and 73% think that the only way to dramatically reduce needlestick injury is to introduce comprehensive use of safety devices.

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 EU Member State is required to bring into force national legislation to implement the Directive by 11 May 2013 at the latest.