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Your Guide to Sharps Management and Injury Prevention

Aug 19, 2015


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 385,000 needlesticks and related sharps injuries happen each year in the healthcare setting. Most sharps, especially needles, are designed to penetrate human skin and therefore often become contaminated with blood. Blood may contain various pathogens, such as hepatitis B virus, HIV and other dangerous substances.

To prevent your medical personnel from contracting these diseases, your facility likely has a sharps management program. But is it effective? Our Maryland medial waste removal company provides sharps disposal services for numerous local hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s offices. Here are a few tips to help you fine-tune your approach to sharps management and reduce the risk of needlestick injuries among your employees.

What Are Sharps?

Essentially, sharps are any medical tools or devices that can puncture skin and would likely puncture a regular medical waste bag. Sharps may include such items as:

  • Needles and syringes
  • IV needles
  • Scalpel blades
  • Lancets
  • Insulin pens and other auto-injectors
  • Broken or fragile glass

Keep in mind that these items become regulated medical waste only when they are contaminated with blood, which is what most of them are used for. Glass vials, ampules, tubes and slides may also become sharp if they break. If they are contaminated with blood, they should also be treated as sharps and disposed of accordingly.

Disposable vs. Reusable Sharps

For the most part, sharps used in medical facilities are the disposable kind. However, certain sharp items such as scalpels and similar tools may be reusable. If you use reusable sharps in your facility, make sure they are collected in a separate container and are properly disinfected in an autoclave or through a different method.

Sharps Collection

Disposable sharps should be placed in a designated disposable sharps container immediately after use. This reduces the risk of a sharp item being dropped on the floor or coming in contact with another person. Sharps containers are specially designed for sharps management and feature a wide enough opening for large objects, as well as a built-in mechanism for unhooking needles. BWS supplies sharps containers for both large and small-volume sharps generators.

It’s up to you where you place your sharps containers, but it’s best when they are always available at the point of waste generation. The least distance your staff has to cover to drop the sharps waste in a container, the better.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t throw sharps in the trash or in biohazard bags.
  • Don’t bend needles and other thin sharp objects to try to make them fit into a container.
  • Don’t overfill the sharps disposal container.
  • Don’t try to recap a needle.
  • Don’t pass a sharp object to another person unless absolutely necessary.

Sharps Injury Reduction

If your goal is to reduce the number of sharps-related injuries in your facility, one of the possible solutions is to reduce the number of sharps. This may sound silly at first, but in some cases, it may be possible to substitute a sharp tool with another tool that does the job equally well. For example, certain medications may be available to be administered orally instead of intravenously. In other cases, a blunt-edge needle may be used instead of a sharp-edge needle.

Medical equipment and supplies have evolved significantly over the past decade in terms of safety features. By upgrading your equipment, you may be able to reduce the staff needlestick injuries in a noticeable manner. Consider implementing the following:

  • Syringes with needles that retract
  • Safety ampule breakers
  • Unbreakable plastic blood collection tubes
  • Knives with integrated retractable shields

Looking for a reliable medical waste management service to take care of your sharps waste? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!

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