A new Directive to create a safe working environment
A new framework agreement between the European Social Partners in the hospital and healthcare sector, signed on 17 July 2009, has become law making it a directive: 2000/54/EC. The purpose of this directive is to permit member states to create a safe working environment regarding sharp instrument handling without dictating the means of achieving this goal. Now the European member states have three years to implement the requirements set out by the directive.
One of the most common and serious risks to healthcare workers in Europe are injuries caused by needles and other sharp instruments.In Europe it has been estimated that there was a staggering 1,200,000 incidences of needle-stick injuries. These injuries represents a high cost for health systems and society in general. It was because of concerns about these figures and the life-threatening risks faced by healthcare workers from contaminated needles, that the European social partners came together to give legal effect to the Framework Agreement.
This new agreement was signed by HOSPEEM (The European Hospital and Healthcare Employers' Association, of which the HSE is a member) and EPSU (The European Public Services Union, which covers all of the 27 Member States.). As far back as June 1989 a Council Directive introduced measures to encourage improvements in Safety and Health for the workforce. This set out general preventive measures and introduced risk assessments. The first function of a risk assessment, is to determine whether the work activity being assessed should be classified as a high, medium or low risk. In a high risk procedure, the work must be ceased immediately, proper controls put in place and these controls and the assessment of the risk documented. The 1989 directive has also assisted in the setting up of safety statements and policies. It also encouraged the organisation of risk prevention, training and monitoring. The Directive also advocated the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) where risks can be reduced or eliminated. It stipulates, any medical device placed on the market must be CE marked to demonstrate its conformity to safety regulations.
Following on from this, the 2000/54/EC Directive encores every hospital in the EU to have an incident reporting system where accidents and 'near misses' should be recorded. A system where the incidents are classified to types and the number of sharp incidents. This process of reporting will focus on the whole system approach and not based on an individual blame.
To conclude, the overall objective of this 2000/54/EC Directive is to provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy work environment for all medical workers. To promote employee participation through improved quality and training. To make employees aware of the importance in the assessing and the prevention of risks. Further information is available from www.hospeem.eu.