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How to Dispose of Sharps Containers: A Guide to Regulated Medical Waste



July 1, 2021



How to Dispose of Sharps Containers: A Guide to Regulated Medical Waste

Sharps containers are used to dispose of needles, lancets, and other sharp objects which pose a health risk to employees and patients/customers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict standards for how to properly dispose of these objects.

We will review how to properly dispose of sharps containers. Before disposing of these sharp objects, it is imperative that you conduct a thorough assessment to find out which disposal container is appropriate for the area and the sharps being used. Similarly, you need to consider the amount of waste produced by the facility to determine the frequency and volume of your pickup schedule. Sharps containers should be disposed of by a professional Medical Waste Disposal Company.

OSHA Regulations

The containers should be collected when ¾s full and placed in an appropriately marked storage area until an employee of the approved waste hauler comes to pick them up. Unused sharps containers should be stored inside of the supply closet or storage area where they are easily accessible. Do not store unused sharps containers in the same room you store your medical waste, we do not want to cross-contaminate the unused sharps containers. 

Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste (RMW) is a subset of waste types that may be contaminated by blood, bodily fluids or any other infectious materials that could cause harm to humans, the community and/or the environment. While there are many federal agencies that act to regulate laws and guidelines for the storage, transport, and disposal of RMW, each state has its own rules that must be complied with, in addition to or superseding some of the federal guidelines. Individual states also have differences in the accepted definitions of RMW and almost all states have adopted the DOT (Department of Transportation) rules for storage, transport, and disposal of RMW.

Sharps Container Disposal

Do not leave sharps containers accessible to children, pets, or unauthorized persons. Secure full containers in a properly marked medical waste storage area. Proper disposal of sharps not only reduces the sharps sticks but also assists in guarding against diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C in landfills where both people and the environment may be affected. Due to the priority of sharps safety, state and federal laws have been created with attention given to the containers required for sharps and the disposal process.

How to Dispose of Sharps Containers in Your Business

Many businesses are creating a safer workplace by providing sharp containers for people who need regular medicine, diabetics who need insulin for example. By doing this you will also be required to comply with sharps container disposal regulations. If these state and federal regulations are not followed, it has the potential to have a sizeable impact on your business’s operations.

What Is Sharps Containment?

A sharps container must be approved by the FDA and is usually made of puncture resistant, leak proof, plastic which can be sealed or locked when full. Because of the potential risks that can arise from leaking, contaminating and accidental handling, there are regulations which state how the containers must be made and maintained. For example, if the caps are not sealed all the way, it is an immediate violation for the shipper, in the event they are being shipped. Meaning any liquid leaking will be considered an unsafe biohazard. It also needs to be disposed of according to regulations, which has the potential to be a huge problem if done incorrectly. Hiring a professional medical waste company will help ensure you stay compliant with state and federal regulations.

Sharps Containers

For businesses, the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FDA and OSHA has established an expansive regulation process for sharps containers. According to the EPA, businesses who choose to hire a medical waste disposal company for their sharps containers will have a greater potential to avoid costly penalties. The EPA says, “Rescue Operation procedures to intercept and remove sharps containers from waste streams are highly regulated by EPA, and violators can face fines of up to $37,500 per violation.” Some states have also introduced their own regulations. It is always best to work with an established medical waste company that knows the current laws and regulations on a Federal, State and local County level.

Sharps Containers in Your Business

Here are some guidelines to follow when offering sharps containers to your customers from your business. Secure Sharps Containers out of the reach of children and high traffic areas to avoid unnecessary contact with the containers. Remove the container from the box it comes in (if there is one) and secure it with a mounting bracket on a wall out of the way and reach of children. When ¾ full put the locking caps on and seal the containers closed. Place the containers in a secure area, such as a marked storage closet. Ensure that the container remains sealed and behind a locked marked storage area until disposal. Keep it Secure, business owners know the location of their sharps containers but the locations of the bins or storage areas must be well-marked and secured as well.

Disposing of Sharps Containers

The laws relating to the disposal of sharps containers vary around the U.S. In some cases, sharps containers must be taken by a licensed medical waste disposal company. If not, disposal of the containers must be in accordance with your local government, state, and federal regulations. Certain kinds of sharps containers can be reused keeping sharps out of the landfill, ask your medical waste provider if they offer this service. These types of sharps containers are commonly referred to as “environmentally friendly” sharps containers. They are usually made from plastic and are made to be easily cleaned and re-used as many times as needed. Disposing of Sharps Containers for business owners who do not have access to facilities where the disposal is legally permitted, should contact Healthcare Waste Management.

Business owners need to take careful note of trends in the industry. For instance, a number of states are adopting stronger laws governing the disposal of sharps in the workplace. It is highly recommended that you consult a medical waste service provider as soon as you realize your business has a need for sharps containers or disposal.

How to Dispose of Used Needles and Prevent Disease

It is important that you know what type of sharps containers you will need for your specific situation. The first type of container that you will need for your needle disposal programs is a sharps container. There are many types of sharps containers available to choose from, including: disposable, reusable, mail back and more. Sharps containers are used for the disposal of needles, lancets and other sharp objects that could break the skin.

The syringe is made with a metal needle and has a rubber tube that is connected to the plunger. The valve that is on the plunger can be closed while in use or opened to release the air. Any needle should never be recapped after use it should go directly into the sharps container.

An autoclave is used in medical and laboratory settings to sterilize lab equipment and waste. Autoclave sterilization works by using heat to kill microorganisms such as bacteria and spores. The heat is delivered by pressurized steam. Pressurization allows the steam to reach the high temperatures that are required for sterilization. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization of Healthcare Facilities, pressurized steam is the most widely used and dependable method of sterilization. It is nontoxic and inexpensive, it kills microbes and spores rapidly, and it quickly heats and penetrates fabrics. For most people, there is no need to worry about how to dispose of used needles and prevent disease. However, for those who are in positions where needle and sharps container disposal is required by law, it is important to take compliance training and always use common sense and practice needle safety to keep yourself and others safe. If you are unsure about how to properly dispose of sharps, do not be afraid to contact Healthcare Waste Management to ask any questions. 

Why is it important to use a sharps container?

Needles are hazardous to everyone, but particularly in healthcare environments. Needle sticks are one of the top dangers for healthcare employees.  Needles, needles, needles. The risk of harm due to sharp objects and sharp instruments is significantly high, especially for healthcare workers. Needles are infectious and can spread disease, such as HIV and hepatitis. Anyone who handles used sharps may be at risk of blood-borne illness. The CDC has even started a “STOP STICKS” campaign stating that over 50% of needle sticks happen during use. Short of a mechanical failure with the instrument or needle, taking your time and practicing best practices is your number one defense against needle sticks.

What is a Sharps Container?

A sharps container is a container designed to hold and dispose of sharp objects such as syringes, needles, and dental and medical equipment. A sharps container is needed when someone wishes to dispose of needles and other sharp objects that pose a health risk to employees and patients. These objects must be kept in a closed container in order to prevent them from causing harm to anyone who comes into contact with them. Sharps containers are usually made from puncture resistant plastic and made to be sealed to prevent leakage and spills.

Get the right Container for Your Business

For your business, sharps container selection is a decision to be made wisely. But the general considerations below will help you. Choose sharps containers that: Are secure and can be locked, are portable, small, and easily moveable, have a grip handle or a way to be easily carried, have one opening to a lid that can be locked or secured when the container is full. Also remember that sharps containers are often stored near biohazard disposal boxes when full, but it is best to store new sharps containers outside of the medical waste storage area. Consider sharps containers to dispose of syringes and other sharp objects. Keeping sharps containers secure is the best practice for any size businesses.

How do I dispose of Sharps in the Sharps Container?

The FDA recommends a two-step process for properly disposing of used needles and other sharps.

Step 1: Place all needles and other sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after they have been used. This will reduce the risk of needle sticks, cuts, and punctures from loose sharps. Sharps disposal containers should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

Step 2: Dispose of used sharps disposal containers according to your business, medical waste provider or community guidelines.

You should never overfill a sharps container as this will increase the likelihood someone will get stuck while disposing of a sharp in the container. Sharps containers are at the end of their useful life when they are ¾’s full.

Conclusion

Despite the relative safety of sharps containers in their intended use, it is always advisable to err on the side of caution if you are disposing of sharps in any manner. That said, the information provided here should provide you with enough information to make a smart decision but does not cover the full extent of laws and regulations regarding sharps container disposal. This is not intended to provide you with complete knowledge on the best way to dispose of needles and other sharp objects. As always, a little precaution goes a long way.

The best option for any business is to hire a professional medical waste disposal company like Healthcare Waste Management, our employees are trained and certified and can answer any specific questions you may have concerning your medical, biohazard and sharps disposal needs.

Healthcare Waste Management offers hassle free quotes that can be given with just a few minutes of your time. We only need three things to quote your service and that is, Location, Frequency, and Volume, it is really that simple. Call Healthcare Waste Management today at 888-427-5797.

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