Working in the health and social care sector

The health and social care sector employs in excess of 115,750 staff in Northern Ireland providing services at a range of sites as well as into people’s own homes. As well as those working directly with service users there is also an extensive range of other staff providing expertise and support in maintaining buildings and equipment, catering, transporting people and goods, cleaning, and various other activities that underpin the delivery of care.


The industry has to take account of the health and safety of both its employees and also the large numbers of members of the public and service users who may be affected by the way work activities and undertakings are organised and the associated risks are managed.

The importance of good management systems, risk analysis and incident reporting is fundamental in ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved.

It is well worth remembering the added value that managing health and safety risks effectively has in reducing the need for people to avail of medical treatment for work related injuries and ill-health.


The top three causes of injury to employees at work reported under RIDDOR are:

  • injured while handling, lifting or carrying
  • slips trips or falls on the same level
  • physical assault or violence 

​Stress is one of the leading causes of employee sickness absence.

Reporting work-related sharps injuries

Sharps injuries must be reported to HSENI under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 (RIDDOR) if:

  • an employee is injured by a sharp known to be contaminated with a blood-borne virus (BBV), eg hepatitis B or C or HIV, this is reportable as a dangerous occurrence
  • the employee receives a sharps injury and a BBV acquired by this route sero-converts, this is reportable as a disease
  • if the injury itself is so severe that it must be reported
  • If the sharp is not contaminated with a BBV, or the source of the sharps injury cannot be traced, it is not reportable to HSENI, that is unless the injury itself causes an over-three-day injury. If the employee develops a disease attributable to the injury, then it must be reported

New guidance on sharps

HSE has recently published a new information sheetproviding advice on the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, which come into force on 11th May 2013. The equivalent Northern Ireland Regulations, The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 also come into operation on this date.

It explains under what circumstances the regulations apply, and provides practical advice on:

  • the safe use and disposal of sharps
  • training requirements
  • procedures for responding to a sharps injury

Further information

More detailed information on issues in the health sector is available on the HSE website.


Key legislation 

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.