Funeral homes are in contact with bodies that may contain transmittable diseases. They also use a variety of tools for preparation of the body that can be contaminated. The use of various instruments that are considered as “sharps” such as scissors, scalpels, and needles could contain microorganisms that would be deadly to staff. Funeral homes are required to comply with the same state and federal guidelines as all that deal with these types of sharps. With over 850,000 sharps accidents each year, it is critical that attention to detail and safety be given to handling and disposal of sharps. An important note to know is that by law, a funeral home is responsible for the medical waste from the moment that it is generated to final proper disposal in what is referred to as “cradle-to-grave.” Compliance with all laws is mandatory and requires manifests to prove of disposal.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has recommended sharps containers that are both easily accessible and have safety factors. The containers will be sturdy, leak-proof, puncture-proof, and sealable. They will have drop in openings so that no one places their hands inside the containers and are to be filled to the 2/3rds line mark. Once filled the container is to be completely sealed and have a clearly visible hazard label on the exterior. Sharps containers should never be overfilled or require that a staff member put themselves at risk by reaching into the container.
The goal of having sharps containers is for easy access. Sharps containers should be in all rooms where sharps will be used and should be as close as possible to avoid undue carrying of used sharps. Containers should never be inside or under cabinets, or in any location that has foot traffic. In the case of multiple rooms, some sharps containers are on wheeled carts so they can be moved from one room to the next.
Sharps containers should be stored in a place that cannot be accessed by anyone other than authorized personnel. The area should be temperature controlled, free of any pests or bugs, and should not be in an area where they could fall.
If a generator creates more than 50 lbs of medical waste, including sharps, they are required by law to contract with a licensed professional medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management for pickup and disposal.
OSHA (Occupations Safety and Health Administration) requires that all funeral homes arrange and pay for the appropriate safety training for their staff. The training will include several topics including the safe handling and storage of sharps to ensure that all employees take every precaution for their safety and that of others. Many funeral homes use professional companies such as Healthcare Waste Management to offer their staff the online training programs that can be completed at their convenience and supplies them with a certificate of completion. OSHA requires an initial training and then one annual training.
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