Sharps Waste

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Infection Prevention and Control for Healthcare Personnel. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Sharps Waste

A sharp is any object that can penetrate the skin, including (but not limited to) items such as needles, scalpels, and broken glass. The OSHA BBP Standard prohibits the manual manipulation of needles, including bending, recapping, shearing, or breaking of contaminated needles.
Sharps containers MUST be:
  • Closable and remain upright
  • Puncture-resistant
  • Leak-proof on the sides and bottom
  • Labeled or color-coded
  • Easily accessible to personnel and located as close as possible to the immediate area where sharps are used
  • Replaced routinely and not be allowed to overfill
Containers must not be opened, emptied, or cleaned by hand, or manipulated in any manner that could expose an employee to blood or cause injury. Sharps containers are to be replaced on a schedule that is frequent enough to prevent overfilling. A good practice is to use two-thirds full as an indication to replace a sharps container. When a sharps container is ready to be discarded, the lid must be closed tightly.
In summary, the following guidelines should be followed when working with sharps:
  • Change sharps containers when 2/3 full
  • Always use sharp safety devices correctly
  • NEVER place sharps in patient beds/linen
  • Use "no-hands" procedures when discarding contaminated sharps.
  • Selfsheathing and other safe needle devices are considered to be sharps and must be disposed of in a sharps container