New EU regulations aimed at reducing the number of needlestick injuries during medical procedures come into force in May.
The move comes as a number of health unions last year demanded EU-wide legal action in order to bolster previous legislation, which they believe has so far failed to prevent around one million injuries associated with syringes and needles.
Known as ‘sharps’, needles, blades and scalpels used during healthcare work can cause injury if they come into contact with the skin. Although accidental, sharps injuries in patients can increase the potential exposure to infections.
Dental staff training should highlight the issues surrounding sharps and methods that can be employed to reduce the element of risk associated with their usage.
For example, all practitioners should ensure they have fulfilled their legal obligation of risk assessment, which determines whether all syringes and sharps used conform to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requirements.
In addition, it is important to be aware that dental sharps are different to medical ones as they are reusable and have two points. For this reason, it is important to ensure each dental surgery has an effective decontamination process to remove the chance of possible infection.
Any sharps that are unprotected must be substituted with ones that reduce or eliminate the risk of accidental injury. Examples of these include needles and syringes with a slide or protective cover.
While some dental syringes can be modified to conform to safety requirements, metal ones cannot be altered.
When considering safer sharps, dental practitioners are advised to take into account a number of considerations. These include ensuring new devices do not compromise patient care.
Furthermore, safer sharps should be reliable and allow dentists to have proper control over treatments and procedures.
The HSE recommends that both dentists and nurses are acquainted with the changes needed to ensure compliance with the new regulations regarding needlestick injuries. Those who are under any doubt are advised to contact the HSE for more information.