EU Directive 2010/32/EU on the prevention of sharps injuries in the health care sector.

Does it mean anything to you?

As set out in the Health and Safety Executive the aims of the Directive are as follows:

  • To achieve the safest possible working environment
  • To prevent workers’ injuries caused by all medical sharps
  • To protect workers at risk
  • To set up an integrated approach establishing policies in risk assessment, risk prevention, training, information, awareness raising and monitoring
  • To put in place response and follow up procedures.

So how does the EU Directive affect me?

The EU Directive is aimed at employers, requiring them to make appropriate provisions for health care staff in respect of the risk of sharps injuries. It is the employer’s duty to ensure the health and safety of workers.

The directive reinforces the need for appropriate levels of training and equipment. A risk assessment must be carried out and where there is a risk of exposure, employers need to identify how exposure can be eliminated. Where exposure cannot be eliminated exposure should be prevented through:

  • Providing sharps disposal equipment as close as possible to where sharps are being used
  • Banning the practice of re-sheathing
  • Implementing safe procedures for using and disposing of sharp medical instruments and contaminated waste
  • Eliminating the unnecessary use of sharps


Employers should be aware of their legal duties under existing legislation and the new directive, which emphasise carrying out risk assessments on the prevention of sharps injuries. There should be a strategic level commitment to reducing sharps injuries.

Health and safety law is criminal law, and health care organisations can be subject to enforcement action if they fail to comply with the legal requirements relating to the prevention of sharps injuries.

In 2010, a hospital trust was fined more than £20,000 after a health care worker contracted hepatitis C following a sharps injury. The trust was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (HSE, 2010).


According to 100,000 needle-stick injuries occur each year in the UK1.

Facts About Needle-Stick Injuries

Everyday health care workers risk occupational exposure to blood-borne Viruses (BBVs) such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a result of an injury from a used medical sharp such as a needle, lancet or scalpel blade. Following a needle-stick injury, health care workers can be exposed to over 30 different BBVs.

Following a needle-stick injury, health care workers can be exposed to over 30 different BBVs. Percutaneous injuries involving hollow bore needles are the most commonly reported occupational exposure in the health care setting (68% of all percutaneous exposures).

The risk of infection after suffering a needle-stick injury
from a contaminated needle1 is:

• One in three for hepatitis B

• One in thirty for hepatitis C

• One in three hundred for HIV


It is estimated in the EU that Dentists and staff incur more than 60,000 needle-stick injuries each year. The NICE guidelines manual 2009 suggest that sharps should be disposed of at the point of use in order to reduce the risk of needle-stick injury and associated infection from BBVs.

More than 1 million needle-stick injuries occur in the European Union each year of which 100,000 needle-stick injuries occur each year in the UK and many more go unreported, according to

It is estimated that £141m is spent on needle-stick injuries each year based on 100,000 needle-stick injuries per year and a mix of low risk/high risk incidents. Another calculation is £500,000 per year per trust.

Costs associated with needle-stick injuries are staff resources to follow up incident, post exposure prophylaxis, potential treatment, health care worker replacement, possible litigation costs and of course the emotional impact on the injured worker.

So where does Sharpsafe & NPSD fit in?

Most sharps injuries can be prevented and there is a legal requirement on employers to take steps to prevent health care staff being exposed to infectious agents from sharps injuries. Most sharps injuries occur:

During use, after use and before disposal

Between steps in procedures

During disposal

While re-sheathing or recapping a needle


Orange-Tray   Purple-Tray   Yellow-Tray


The Directive stipulates that point of use disposal in addition to banning the practice of re-sheathing and recapping needles are essential to the Directive. It is the duty of the employer to assess the need to implement further control measures including safety-engineered devices to reduce the risk of injuries.

Sharpsafe satisfies the requirements of the Directive by utilising it’s Near Patient Sharps Disposal System (NPSD) which aids point of use disposal. NPSD is a strategy for reducing needlestick injuries which features sharps containment products designed specifically to be taken to the patient.


Sharps are disposed of safely at the ‘point of use’ thereby eliminating many of the opportunities for needlestick injuries. This practice eliminates re-sheathing and any direct personal contact with a used needle thus reducing the risk of a needle-stick injury and associated infection from blood-borne viruses.


Further Information

Download a copy of the Council Directive 2010/32/EU or for further information you can also visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

1. Safer Needles Network. 2006