The Basics of Sharps Management, and Why Containers Matter

Sharps waste is classified as biohazardous waste and must be carefully handled, which is why the container you use matters.

On-site management of regulated medical waste is a multi-pronged issue, as there are state and federal regulations, all of which cover packaging, disposal, handling, and removal.  Medical waste packaging and labeling in a facility that deals with regulated medical waste is the responsibility of the facility itself.  Packaging includes sharps containers, biohazard containers, plastic bags, and reusable containers.  Failure to comply with safe containment, especially sharps containment, is not only an environmental issue, but a community health issue that can come with hefty fines.  When it comes to sharps disposal, you can’t just use any old trash receptacle.

Here’s the lowdown on sharps containers and why it matters.

What Is Considered Sharps Waste?

Sharps waste is classified as biohazardous waste and must not only be carefully handled, but carefully contained until it’s time for disposal.  Sharps waste includes hypodermic needles, syringes, tubing, blades, including scalpels and razors, microscope slides and lancets.

The Sharps Container

For sharps, the container must be rigid, leak-resistant, and puncture-resistant as not to spread infectious disease. Sharps containers must also be secured tightly.  According to the FDA, used needles and other sharps must be immediately placed in FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers.  It also says that sharps containers must be:

  • made of a heavy-duty plastic;
  • able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid, without sharps being able to come out;
  • upright and stable during use;
  • leak-resistant; and
  • properly labeled to warn of hazardous waste inside the container.

Facilities can only fill sharps containers only ¾ full.  This is to prevent injury.

According to the CDC, there are approximately 385,000 needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries to hospital-based healthcare personnel each year, which is why sharps safety is one of the top concerns in the medical community. On November 6, 2000, President Clinton signed The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (H.R. 5178), which codifies and strengthens federal OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

The most common infections occupationally transmitted via sharps injuries during patient care include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.  Fortunately, the majority of sharps injuries are preventable, and part of that prevention is using an approved sharps container wherever sharps waste is generated.

Red Bags offers approved bins, red bags, and sharps containers to assist your organization with the development and maintenance of a sharps management plan.

Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.

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