clinical waste

Safe Handling and Disposal of Sharps and Needles Waste

Needle-stick injuries should be a concern for any setting that involves the use of needles and syringes. Exposure to sharps and needles waste may lead to puncture injuries or the spread of blood-borne viruses.

Explore recommended safe handling and disposal procedures for dealing with sharps and needles waste.

What Is Sharps and Needles Waste?

“Sharps” is a term that covers any sharp objects. It is typically used to describe sharp instruments used in healthcare settings. This may include hospitals, clinics, and schools with nurse stations.

Examples of “sharps” include syringe needles, scalpels, razor blades, scissors, lancets, clamps, pins, staples, and other objects capable of cutting or puncturing the skin.

Potential Health Risks of Needle-Stick Injuries

Along with causing a cut or puncture wound, a needle-stick injury may expose an individual to infectious diseases. Hazardous fluids from a contaminated object may spread blood-borne viruses, such as:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

One study estimated that a needle contaminated with the hepatitis B virus has a 6% to 30% chance of infecting an individual. Needle-stick injuries have also resulted in the transmission of diseases involving bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms. Needle-stick injuries may expose people to blastomycosis, diphtheria, malaria, syphilis, and tuberculosis.

What Are the Proper Procedures for Handling Sharps and Needles?

About half of needle-stick injuries occur during use, which demonstrates the importance of safe handling procedures. Workers may accidentally puncture or cut an individual during the transfer of equipment or when accessing an IV line.

Before using a sharp object, workers should ensure that all other items are nearby. For example, before injecting a syringe, you may need alcohol swabs and gauze. Having these items nearby decreases the risk of injury by limiting the need to move around while carrying a sharp object.

Avoid handing an uncovered sharp object to someone else or setting it on a tray for another person to grab. Sharp objects should not be uncovered or unwrapped until it is time to use the item. After uncovering the object, keep the sharp edge or point away from yourself and others. For example, keeping a needle pointed upward may limit the risk of accidental injury.

Wearing disposable latex or vinyl gloves is recommended when handling sharps. Studies show that wearing gloves reduces the risk of injury from needles and sharp medical objects by about 66%.

How Do You Dispose of Sharps and Needle Waste?

About 19% of needle-stick injuries occur after use but before disposal. Injuries are more likely to occur when attempting to recap a needle or clean up without disposing of the needle first.

A suitable disposal container should be within reach before using a sharp object. Before uncapping a syringe, make sure that the sharps container is nearby and no more than two-thirds full. Keeping the container from overfilling reduces the risk of accidental injury when disposing of needle waste.

Dispose of sharps and needles immediately after use instead of setting them down or recapping them. Always pick up syringes by the middle of the barrel. Do not attempt to sweep up syringes with a dustpan, as sweeping may cause the syringe to fly into the air.

Place syringes in the medical waste bin with the sharp end pointed down. Never reach into a disposal container. After disposing of the object, make sure that the lid on the container is closed and fully secured.

If a needle sticks out of the sharps bin, do not attempt to push it further into the bag. The container should be emptied instead of trying to create more space inside. If you come across a used sharp object outside of the disposal container, grab the object by the non-sharp end. If you cannot safely grab the object with your hands, use a pair of tongs to pick it up and dispose of it properly.

Safe Handling and Disposal of Sharps is Important

Safety procedures are needed when using syringes and other sharp objects. Safe handling and disposal help reduce the risk of needle-stick injuries. Needle-stick injuries may allow viruses and diseases to infect the injured person.

Always keep a sharps container nearby and remember to wear disposable gloves when available. Discard sharps waste immediately after use. If a needle-stick injury occurs, wash the wound and seek medical treatment as soon as possible. We hope you keep these tips in mind when handling and disposing sharps and needles waste.

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