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Understanding Sharps Waste

Understanding Sharps Waste

“Sharps” is a term used to define any object that can pierce the skin that could contain transmittable diseases. Although commonly used in the healthcare industry, they are also found in facilities such as tattoo and body piercing parlors, funeral homes, laboratories, coroners, and in private homes.  Sharps Waste is after an item above has become contaminated and must be discarded.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there are around 385,000 injuries per year involving contaminated needles or other devices defined as “sharps” involving hospital-based staff. The additional CDC statistics for sharps indicate that sharps injuries have been involved in the transmission of HBV (hepatitis B virus), HCV (hepatitis C virus), and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), along with over 20 other pathogens. Sharps are categorized as biohazardous waste and proper handling, storage, and disposal of sharps is critical in assuring that all are protected from potentially devastating diseases.

Types of Sharps

Sharps can be made of any type of material that can cut the skin that may contain transmittable diseases. Examples include but are not limited to:

Preventing Sharps Injuries

The best way to prevent injuries from sharps is to take the recommended safety precautions in use, handling, and disposal.  Establishing a safety strategy and making sure that everyone involved in the exposure of sharps is educated on it as a process during and after use is critical to success in avoiding sharps injuries.

Use of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) during use with specific guidelines for immediate disposal in FDA-approved biohazard containers that are located in close proximity to the application, followed by established guidelines for container storage and pickup by a certified and licensed medical waste disposal company is important.

Individuals having sharps for home use can follow the same guidelines for post-use and containers followed by taking the containers to an approved location such as a hospital for certified disposal.

Proper Sharps Disposal

There are numerous local, state, and federal laws for compliance of proper sharps disposal. The regulations that are established ensure that the contents are rendered harmless so that there is no potential for injury or transmission of potential diseases. Licensed, trained, and certified medical waste disposal companies are knowledgeable on the various laws and required compliance procedures.

Some of the organizations involved include the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that dictates the requirements to assure that hazardous waste doesn’t impact the environment, the DOT (Department of Transportation) regulates the laws for transporting hazardous waste, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) on the training and injury reporting for staff for safety when involved with any item that could transmit a bloodborne pathogen.

There are various methods used to render sharps harmless before they are placed in sterile landfills. Each state regulates the methods that are approved and the required documents that must be kept as proof.


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