Sharps Safety in Veterinary Clinics

February 07, 2023

Sharps Safety for Veterinary Clinics and Animal Hospitals

Sharps safety in any healthcare environment is vital to providing quality care while preventing workplace injuries, even when the patients are animals. In veterinary care facilities, needlestick injuries are common and can cause serious injury, and loss of time at work.

The term “sharps” is used to define objects capable of cutting or penetrating skin or packaging material. Examples include:

  • Instruments (such as scalpels and blades)
  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Broken glass or ampoules

An injury by a sharp can cause disease when bloodborne pathogens enter the bloodstream. Bloodborne pathogens are pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans, such as hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a standard that requires employers whose employees have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens to follow certain requirements; this includes the proper collection of sharps waste. OSHA's standard only applies to occupational exposures to human blood, unless the animal blood is known to be infected with HIV or HBV.

Although OSHA’s jurisdiction is limited, other federal, state, or local authorities may have regulations that apply to the proper disposal of contaminated sharps used for performing procedures on animals in veterinary settings. As a best practice, Stericycle recommends that all contaminated sharps from veterinary settings be placed in containers that are closable, puncture resistant, leakproof, and labeled/color-coded to indicate the potential hazard. Containers should be easily accessible to personnel and located as close as feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used.

Veterinarians can also use a trusted third-party service to collect, treat, and dispose of their sharps waste. Stericycle services thousands of veterinary clinics and animal hospitals across the U.S. Offering a wide variety of container sizes and service models, Stericycle can provide a waste management program specific to your facility's needs and waste volumes.

One option for managing sharps waste is the SafeDropTM sharps mail back program. This option provides sharps waste containers that can be sent back for treatment with a cost-effective, convenient mail back method. The all-in-one sharps management kits offer everything needed to collect sharps waste:

  • Sharps container and plastic liner
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Pre-addressed, postage-paid return shipping labels
  • Barcoded return shipping container
  • Prepaid sharps treatment and disposal
  • Serialized tracking documents (for tracking delivery to the treatment facility)

Learn how Stericycle can help your veterinary practice by providing sharps waste management solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can veterinary clinics and animal hospitals take steps to reduce the risk of sharps-related injuries?

Veterinary clinic and animal hospital personnel should be trained on how to prevent needlestick injuries. For example, your practice may want to consider restraining animals during procedures to help minimize the risk of needlestick injuries that can happen when animals move during an injection.

Does OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard apply to veterinary clinics and animal hospitals?

OSHA’s jurisdiction is limited to occupational exposure to animal blood known to be infected with HIV or HBV, or other pathogens for research purposes. Other federal, state, or local authorities may have regulations that apply to the proper disposal of waste and contaminated sharps used for performing procedures on animals in veterinary settings.

How should sharps waste be disposed of?

As a best practice, all contaminated sharps should be placed in a sharps waste container that adheres to the requirements outlined in OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A).

What are the best practices for training staff on sharps safety in veterinary clinics and animal hospitals?

Veterinary medicine and animal care workers should receive training on workplace hazards regularly. Comprehensive training programs should include instructions on preventing needlestick, scalpel, and sharps injuries. 

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