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Sharps Containers

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Sharps Containers

Special attention is required for sharps containers as the items that are placed inside carry the potential for additional injury as well as transmission of deadly diseases. Medical waste Management Programs, and guidelines are dictated by local, state, and federal laws, however, a majority share the same type of rulings for most medical waste.

Given that there are over 385,000 sharps injuries each year, the Best Practices for Doctor’s Offices requirements to keep staff and patients safe are stringent. Each state has specific OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules for employee training for sharps safety and other government organizations such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and DOT (Department of Transportation) have additional compliance requirements.

The importance of the proper sharps container cannot be underestimated. The container is the sole protection from potential infection of bloodborne and other pathogens to individuals and the environment. Using the wrong sharps container can result in injuries and disease infection.

Sharps is considered to be regulated medical waste removal and as such falls under the cradle-to-grave laws for responsibility. This means that the Hospital Medical Waste, organization or company that generated the sharps is responsible for all aspects of the sharps, including rendering them harmless and ultimate disposal. Any actions that do not comply with local, state, and federal guidelines for sharps, including containers, can result in high level fines to the organization or company that is the generator.

Sharps Defined

According to the FDA (Federal Drug Administration):

“Sharps is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. They may be used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage the medical conditions of people or their pets, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.”

The FDA gives examples of sharps to include but are not limited to:

• Needles – hollow needles used to inject drugs (medication) under the skin
• Syringes – devices used to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body
• Lancets, also called “fingerstick” devices – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing. Lancets are commonly used in the treatment of diabetes.
• Auto Injectors, including epinephrine and insulin pens – syringes pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body
• Infusion sets – tubing systems with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body.
• Connection needles/sets – needles that connect to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body. This is generally used for patients on home hemodialysis.

Sharps can also include any broken glass or plastic item that has been exposed to a potentially dangerous disease.

Given that sharps carry the potential to transmit dangerous diseases, attention is given to the careful handling, storage, and disposal of sharps for the protection of people, the community, and the environment.

Sharps Containers Defined

Sharps are required to be placed in FDA-cleared containers designed for sharps immediately after use. The FDA has devoted a lot of time and effort in evaluating the effectiveness and safety for sharps containers and have given a clearance/approval to those containers that pass their qualifications testing. Sharps containers that are FDA-cleared assist in reducing the risk of infections and injuries due to sharps.

“FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are made from rigid plastic and come marked with a line that indicates when the container should be considered full, which means it’s time to dispose of the container.”

Sharps containers are available in a variety of sizes based on the volume needed as well as some additional features or options. Standard sharps containers are sturdy and have a sealable lid. Some sharps containers offer a rotor lid for sealing, while others have a temporary closure for use that is combined with the permanent lid sealing when ready for disposal.

The most innovative sharps containers have a rolling lid or lever that allows the sharp to be dropped into the container safely with a lever that keeps hands and contaminated sharps separated.

The best sharps containers can be reused only after they are completely cleaned and sterilized. Many of the medical waste management disposal companies offer reusable sharps containers as part of their service and to assist in maintaining an environmentally friendly position.

Best Sources Guide

In the last number of years there has been an improvement in both the types of sharps containers and some of the features/options that they offer. Each organization that generates medical waste must gauge their specific requirements based on volume, in-house destruction, or pickup by a licensed and professional medical waste disposal company. The best medical waste disposal companies offer a choice of sharps containers and replenishment the containers with each pickup. The containers must all be FDA-cleared so that they comply with the needs of sharps storage and transport.

While the better medical waste disposal companies will offer assistance in selecting the sharps containers that fit the need, there are some online sources that can help to get any idea of options:

The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) webpage on sharps containers by size and type as well as details on typical use.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) website has a helpful Sharps_Containers.pdf that offers extremely detailed criteria on the requirements and standards of sharps containers.

All Top Listings includes the top 10 best types of sharps containers and covers a variety of volumes and selections, with a lot of detail on each of the ten.

Best Practices for Sharps Containers

Sharps are considered to be biohazardous waste and must comply with the local, state, and federal requirements for handling, storage, and disposal.

An organization must have FDA-cleared sharps containers in sizes that are appropriate for their environment and make changes in the containers when either the volume is altered or the need is increased or reduced.

Sharps containers should:

• Be tightly closed when not in use.
• Only be filled 2/3 full
• Be stored upright
• Be constructed of sturdy material
• Be color-coded for easy identification
• Contain an inner “red bag” for extra safety against leaks
• Leak-resistant and puncture-proof
• Only be filled 2/3 full
• Should be sealable with a tight seal or lid
• Be within reach at average eye level
• Be labeled with the universal biohazard label
• Be moved to the appropriate storage area by authorized staff only
• Be stored in a temperature regulated area
• Not be accessible by unauthorized individuals
• Be in an area inaccessible to pests and rodents
• Not be in an area of public traffic
• Not be located on a second floor where a spill or fall could cause infection
• Not contain any other kind of trash or medical waste
• Be replaced if a crack or break is discovered as it is no longer leak-proof
• Be placed in the area that it is used including but not limited to: nurses’ stations, laboratories, examination rooms, and pharmacies.
• Be removed from the premises for disposal based on the laws/rules of the state for storage and volume

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires that all staff take a medical waste safety class and pass certification.

Best Sources to Use for Sharps Disposal

There are a number of options that can be chosen for sharps disposal, however, not all options may comply with the local, state, and federal laws of the state. Each state has their own laws and guidelines for sharps disposal and most are based on the volume of sharps generated.

Large healthcare organizations that generate sharps and use sharps containers may have in-house disposal facilities. These are quite expensive and require specially trained staff to transport and ensure that the sharps have been rendered harmless. This staff must also supply complete detailed documentation as part of the certification of destruction to the state.

Most healthcare organizations make use of a professional, licensed, and certified medical waste disposal company for the removal and disposal of their sharps containers. While this is a very cost-effective method for sharps removal, not all medical waste removal companies are alike.

All in One: The top rated medical waste companies, such as Healthcare Waste Management have the following criteria that makes them the best and most cost-effective:

The other types of medical waste disposal companies offer similar services but may have hidden fees, additional charges, middle-men, or staff that are not employed by them.

When thinking about something as critical as medical waste, and specifically sharps disposal, it is just not worth it to try to cut corners.

A full-service medical waste management and disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management are aware of and comply with all local, state, and federal laws and work directly for the client/generator. As a one-stop shop, the services that are offered are cost-effective. The full service option includes additional areas that are often not considered such as consulting, customer and compliance online logins, and online medical waste regulations. The ability to have peace of mind with a knowledgeable and accredited medical waste disposal company is one area that allows clients to focus on their business of healthcare.

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