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Brussels, 17 July 2009

EU social partners' agreement to prevent injuries to healthcare workers and cut risk of infections

Employers and trade unions in the healthcare sector have today signed an EU-wide agreement to prevent injuries from needle sticks and other sharp objects. More than 1 million such injuries occur every year, forming one of the most common health and safety threats in the European workplace. The agreement was concluded after five months of negotiations by the European social partner organisations in the sector, which employs around 3.5 million people.

"In the worst case scenario, injuries from sharp objects can cause infections and lead to illnesses such as viral hepatitis or AIDS. They also impose high costs on our health systems and on society in general," said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "This agreement shows once again that European social dialogue is an effective tool for delivering concrete results for workers and companies in important sectors across the EU".

The new framework agreement was signed today by the European Public Services Union (EPSU) and the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers' Association (HOSPEEM), who established a social dialogue committee in the hospital and healthcare sector in 2006.

The agreement aims to:

  • achieve the safest possible working environment for employees in the sector and protect workers at risk;

  • prevent injuries to workers caused by all types of sharp medical objects (including needle sticks);

  • set up an integrated approach to assessing and preventing risks as well as to training and informing workers.

At the request of the European social partners and after having examined their representativeness and the legal conformity of the text, the Commission intends to submit, after the summer, a proposal to the Council for implementation of the agreement by a directive, in accordance with article 139 of the Treaty.

The agreement specifically addresses one of the priority objectives of the EU's current strategy for health and safety at work (2007-2012).


In 2006, the European Parliament adopted a resolution requesting the Commission to submit a legislative proposal on protecting healthcare workers from blood-borne infections due to needle stick injuries. After the two-stage consultations on this issue, in 2006 and 2007, the EU social partners decided to organise a technical seminar with all stakeholders (nurses, doctors, surgeons and so on), which highlighted the many causes of injuries in hospitals and healthcare services. In December 2008, they informed the Commission of their intention to negotiate on a wider basis covering all types of sharp injuries (including needle sticks). The negotiations, to which the Commission provided technical and logistical support, started in January 2009 and were completed on 2 June 2009.

Further information

Agreement of the social partners

European social dialogue website

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