Sharps in dentistry

Following the introduction of The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 in May last year there is some confusion regarding the interpretation of the regulations and the role of risk assessments in relation to the use of safer sharps and recapping.

Edmund Proffitt, policy and public affairs director at the BDIA, said: 'From May last year all dental practices have to ensure it complies with the "sharps" regulations.

'This means that dental practices must avoid the unnecessary use of sharps and where this is not possible a safer sharp must be used where reasonably practicable.

'We believe from the discussions we have had with our members, dental practitioners and the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) that for the majority of dental activities there will be safer devices available and that risk assessment would deem them reasonably practicable to use.

'Therefore, it will be in very limited cases that "traditional" devices can still be used, and this should be justified by the risk assessment process.

'Ultimately, it is for a dentist to justify to the courts why they did not use a safety device and it would be very difficult for a court to agree with the dentist if there was a safety device on the market and others were using them.'

In terms of the ‘recapping’ of needles, the regulations state that needles must not be recapped after use unless the employer’s risk assessment has identified that recapping is itself required to prevent a risk (eg to reduce the risk of contamination of sterile preparations).

In these very limited cases appropriate devices to control the risk of injury to employees must be provided. 

As a result of the constant development of devices and technologies by BDIA members and others it is suggested that if a dentist has decided that it is not reasonably practicable to use a safer sharp in a specific circumstance, the decision is regularly reviewed to see if a different or new product is suitable.

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