Medical facilities of all types that have sharps as part of their services are faced with the priority of disposing of sharps in a safe and effective way. Sharps have the potential to transmit dangerous diseases and ensuring the safety of patients and staff is the highest priority. Establishing a sharps disposal program is the easiest way to ensure safety. Attention to details will help to eliminate the possibility of needlesticks and other injuries related to sharps, avoid transmission of bloodborne pathogens, and keep dangerous sharps out of landfills and other community areas.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established strict regulations for the storage and proper disposal of sharps. Various agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) have additional guidelines in transporting sharps and medical waste. A medical facility is responsible for complying with every step, from the moment of generation to proving proper disposal, so it’s important to know the specifics for your state. Putting together a cohesive plan also means to make sure that all employees are trained and educated on the processes required for compliance and safety.
Due to the dangerous condition of injury with sharps, all OSHA requirements include specifics regarding the containers used for sharps storage and transport. The containers must be sturdy, puncture resistant, leak proof on bottom and sides, have the ability to be sealed shut, and be labeled properly. Containers are required to have the universal “Biohazard” symbol or label or be color-coded in red as a warning that it contains hazardous materials. It’s also recommended that the container has additional labeling identifying the contents. There are currently options for sharps containers that can be standard or reusable containers. The reusable containers assist in the reduction of plastic out of landfills which is good for the environment. Both of the container types are processed at a licensed medical waste disposal facility.
Safety is the key word when it comes to sharps. Containers should be located as close to the place of generation as possible. These are typically in the rooms where medical staff work with patients to deliver injections, testing, use scalpels, etc. Once the need for the sharp is completed, they should be immediately placed in the proper sharps container. To ensure safety, the medical staff should be able to access the containers easily without the requirement of walking a great distance or leaving the room. Some larger medical facilities with extensive treatment areas have opted to make use of a mobile cart that allows staff to take the containers from room to room.
Sharps containers need to be properly maintained so that they are not overfilled. Storage of the containers should be in a location where they cannot fall which could result in spillage. The containers should not be stacked or placed anywhere near patients or human traffic. Depending upon the size of the medical facility and the state laws, storage duration may be limited. Due to this fact most medical organizations arrange scheduled pickups with a licensed and trained medical waste disposal company.
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