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Date: Wednesday 30 May 2012

UNISON campaign sees new safety measures introduced to cut needlestick injuries

A Scottish health board has become one of the first to introduce new safety measures to reduce needlestick injuries among health workers, thanks to a UNISON campaign.

The majority of the new safety devices – which include various safety needles – have been introduced to Dumfries and Galloway Health Board in recent months in a bid to cut the number of needlestick and sharps injuries among staff. In the past decade, the board has seen more than 600 related injuries. UNISON member Andy Howat, who is employed by the board as a health and safety adviser, says he hopes the move will lead to a large drop in the number of needle-related injuries.

He said: “Needlestick and sharps injuries cause needless worry and injury to hospital staff as well as costing health boards thousands of pounds each year. This money could be saved by preventing the incidents in the first place and better spent on vital areas of healthcare.

“It’s only right that hospital staff have a safe environment to work in and I have no doubt that these new safety needles will reduce the number of injuries among health workers. The fact is, even one injury is one too many, so we need to remember that health and safety is a very worthwhile investment.”

The union will share its success story at a European conference in London on Friday (June 1). The European Bio Safety Network Conference aims to raise awareness of the serious health risks caused by needlestick and sharps injuries, as well as looking at practical steps employers and workers can take to prepare for implementation of the EU directive on needlestick injuries – The Prevention of Sharps Injuries in the Hospital and Healthcare Sector – which comes into effect in May, 2013.

Joe Lynch, UNISON’s regional organiser, said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working between UNISON and Dumfries and Galloway health board. Eight years ago the board didn’t even have a dedicated health and safety officer and now, thanks to a lot of union campaigning, it’s become one of the first health boards to implement these new safety standards for health workers.

“Two years ago, we worked with the board to introduce safety canulas and, since then, there’s been no canula-related injuries involving contact with patients’ blood. That’s a success in itself and we hope other health boards will follow suit and implement measures to protect their staff from needlestick and sharps injuries.”


Notes to editors

  1. The European Bio Safety Network is being held on June 1 in London. It was established in 2010 as a virtual network of national and European professional institutions, representative associations, unions and other interested organisations committed to the elimination of sharps injuries throughout the EU to improve the safety of patients and healthcare and non-healthcare workers.
  1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest union for healthcare workers. To find out more visit our website at www.unison-scotland.org.uk

For further information please contact:
Joe Lynch, UNISON’s Regional Organiser, on 07958 121 063
Andy Howat, UNISON member and Health and Safety Adviser at Dumfries and Galloway Health Board, on 01387 244 612