Sharps can be some of the deadliest items for the transmission of diseases. Sharps are anything that may have the potential to have come into contact with a bloodborne or other pathogen that could be contaminated and can pierce the skin. Protecting anyone that is involved with sharps is a high priority for the prevention of contagions in handling, storage, and disposal of sharps. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established basic safety guidelines for all facets of dealing with sharps, including disposal.
Different environments where sharps may be present can have unique circumstances. Sharps containers are required to be in all locations where sharps are found and/or used. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030 (d)(4)(iii)(A)(l)(i) indicates the requirements of the containers but does not list any specific container or opening size. OSHA has specific rules for sharps containers including that they must be puncture-resistant, leak proof, have the ability to be completely sealed, and should be color-coded or labeled as a warning of hazardous contents. In addition, the containers should be maintained in an upright condition so that the sharps and any liquids inside are kept from spilling. There are a variety of FDA-recommended sharps containers that can accommodate OSHA guidelines. Employers should use the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) document Selecting, Evaluating, and Using Sharps Disposal Containers to assist in evaluating the sharps container size and design associated with the specific use and location. Medical waste management companies such as Healthcare Waste Management can assist in offering counsel and supplying the recommended sharps containers.
Containers should be as close to the point of use as possible to avoid any accidents. There are locations that may involve sharps containers that are placed on carts for transport from room to room. Since sharps involve a variety of items, including but not limited to broken plastic or glass, knives, scalpels, and hypodermic needles, the container used for disposal should have an accessible lid that allows dropping the sharps into the container without handling them. The size of the opening should be able to easily accommodate the type of sharps that will be disposed of without removing a lid or placing hands or fingers in danger. Sharps containers should never be filled past the 2/3 mark for safety and protection.
Once a sharps container has reached the designate 2/3 full mark it must be closed, sealed, and ensured that it is labeled as hazardous. A sharps container should always have a sterile, empty replacement prior to removal. Healthcare Waste Management can assure that a location has the proper sharps containers available once existing containers are filled and ready to be picked up for disposal. Sharps containers should be placed in a safe and temperature controlled area that does not allow anyone access except authorized personnel.
Following the OSHA guidelines for sharps containers will help to protect staff and patients from the potential of harmful transmission of deadly diseases.
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