The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a sharp as “any object that can penetrate a worker’s skin, such as needles, scalpels, broken glass, capillary tubes, and the exposed ends of dental wires.”1 Extra precaution must be used when any of these items have been contaminated by blood or other potentially infectious materials, as defined in the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29CFR 1910.1030).
Contaminated sharps must be disposed of in an approved sharps container. These containers must be puncture-resistant. They are color-coded red or labeled to notify everyone that the contents are biohazardous. Containers must be large enough to accommodate the contaminated items, but not over filled to prevent injury. All sharps containers must have a closable lid to prevent the materials from spilling out during handling, storage, and transport.
There are currently two types of sharps containers used by most facilities; singleuse and reusable. Single use sharps containers are designed to be disposed of as a unit. Once the container is filled, the lid is secured and the entire container picked up by a licensed and insured medical waste disposal company. Single use containers are treated in their entirety. Reusable containers are transported to the disposal facility. The facility uses mechanical means to open and empty the filled containers. The reusable container is then disinfected and inspected for structural integrity before being sent back to the facilityfor reuse.
For more information regarding Sharps Safety and the Bloodborne Pathogen visit: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/index.html