Proposals to introduce regulations on medical sharps injuries, designed to protect healthcare workers from injuries, have been put to a public consultation.
The Health and Safety Executive's plans would require all employers to have 'effective arrangements' in place for the safe use and disposal of medical sharps, while healthcare workers would be obligated to report any sharps-related injuries. Employers would also have to provide sharps information and training to employees.
More than 100,000 needlestick injuries occur each year in the UK alone.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: 'Nurses and healthcare assistants continue to be at risk in the workplace from sharps injuries which should be prevented. Nobody should go to work fearing that they could be exposed to serious infections such as Hepatitis and HIV simply because steps haven't been taken to avoid preventable accidents.
'We will be responding to the consultation in full and will be using a wealth of evidence to show the seriousness of this issue and the benefits to employers if they protect their staff. We would urge individuals and organisations to do likewise. We trust that the regulations will then be implemented as soon as possible so that nursing and other health staff cease to be at risk.'
The consultation is open until November.