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Sharps disposal

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Sharps Injuries: Sharps Disposal

Improper sharps disposal is another significant cause of sharps injury in the workplace. Injuries related to improper sharps disposal can occur for the following reasons:

  • Inappropriate sharps disposal practices by the worker, such as insufficient maintenance of sharps containers in every area. Designated staff should monitor the fill level of all containers, prohibit placement of nonsharps waste in a sharps container, and ensure that all staff are educated in proper sharps disposal.
  • Improper design of sharps disposal container.
  • Improper selection of sharps containers for the procedures being performed (e.g., surgical instruments)
  • Overfilling sharps disposal container.

Guidelines: Sharps disposal containers

NIOSH used focus groups to determine the critical elements needed for secure and safe sharps disposal containers. The results of these studies suggest the importance of four criteria: functionality, accessibility, visibility, and accommodation.

  1. Functionality: Containers should be puncture-resistant, durable during installation and transport, and an appropriate size and shape. The closure should be secure and minimize exposure during closure.
  2. Accessibility: Containers should be upright and easy to operate while preventing the contents from spilling. The container should be placed in a visible location, within easy horizontal reach, and below eye level. The container should also be placed away from any obstructed areas, such as near doors, under sinks, near light switches, etc.
  3. Visibility: Containers should be clearly visible to the health care worker. The container should be designed so that workers may be able to easily determine the container’s fill status and distinguish any warning labels.
  4. Accommodation: Containers should facilitate ease of storage and assembly, require minimal worker training requirements, be easy to operate, and have a flexible design. A container should also easily accommodate one-handed disposal of a sharps device. Product design should minimize sharp surfaces and cross-infection hazards. Installation and mounting systems should be safe, durable, stable, and cleanable.