The Importance of Safe Sharps Disposal
A strong sharps disposal program is an important element to maintaining a safe work environment. Properly managing sharps and needle disposal not only mitigates the risk of inadvertent sharps injuries, but also facilitates proper disposal and preserves the environment. Without a smoothly functioning sharps and syringe disposal program in place, health care organizations may unintentionally put patients, staff and the surrounding community at risk—and fall short of industry compliance standards.
Before determining how to strengthen the disposal of sharps at your organization, it’s important to first understand your organization’s unique goals and evaluate the existing waste management processes in place. The following are four questions to ask yourself when considering your current waste management programs and goals.
How Does Your Organization Currently Dispose of Sharps?
By closely examining how staff throws away sharps, organizations can determine what kind of disposal program best suits their needs. This may involve asking further questions like:
- What types of sharps are staff throwing away?
- How many sharps disposal areas are needed?
- How quickly does sharps waste accumulate?
- What regulations apply to the facility?
Are Reusable Sharps Containers Right for Your Organization?
Reusable sharps containers can significantly reduce the environmental impact of sharps waste. This option eliminates the need to manufacture new sharps containers and helps to conserve natural resources. For example, at Stericycle, our reusable sharps containers decrease the amount of treated medical waste sent to landfills by as much as 30 percent.
Before utilizing reusable sharps containers at your organization, it’s important to first understand whether this approach fits within your facility’s current goals, including sustainability and carbon footprint reduction efforts as well as budgeting considerations.
Are You Proactive about Sharps Disposal?
To avoid inadvertent injury and to be compliant with OSHA, organizations should change sharps receptacles before they are full. This includes understanding how long sharps waste can remain in a container before it needs to be addressed. According to most states, the clock doesn’t start until the sharps container has been filled to the fill line—and then it must be correctly disposed of in accordance with state-specific time limitations. Establishing a proactive policy that ensures a consistent process for needle disposal based on your state’s unique requirements is key, including the cleaning and proactive exchange of containers.
Is Your Waste Tracked?
There are numerous federal, state and local regulations governing sharps disposal and processing. Visibility into waste tracking can significantly help your organization ensure compliance. Since Stericycle uses a bar-coded labeling system, it can electronically track all sharps waste containers, allowing you to monitor disposal from start to finish and easily demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations.
When it comes to proper sharps disposal and waste management compliance, understanding your organization’s current processes, and identifying top strengths and weaknesses is crucial. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced waste disposal partner like Stericycle can help your organization overcome existing sharps waste disposal challenges, improve safety and compliance, and allow staff to concentrate on its core mission — providing patient care. For more information about how Stericycle can meet your sharps waste management needs, click here.