1 April 2019
Mitigate the Risk of Sharps Related Injuries and Illnesses
Proper and consistent sharps disposal is an essential step in preserving staff and patient safety. A solid sharps disposal program prevents needlestick and other sharps injuries, limiting the potential spread of bloodborne pathogens in health care facilities and also the surrounding communities.
Establishing a reliable program requires strategic planning and an appreciation of the applicable regulations. Here are key four steps to guide implementation of a comprehensive sharps disposal initiative at your facility.
Step One: Understand OSHA and Other Regulatory Requirements
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires health care organizations to comply with requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard for sharps containers. In addition, individual states have their own requirements for regulated medical waste. The nuances of medical waste regulations and definitions vary by state, so it’s important for organizations to have a thorough understanding of their state’s specific requirements to ensure compliance.
Step Two: Select the Right Containers
Regardless of state, OSHA mandates that sharps containers must be closable, puncture resistant, leak proof on the sides and bottom, and properly labeled. To be compliant, containers should be labeled with a universal biohazard symbol, the word “biohazard” or color-coded red to warn everyone that the contents are hazardous. For good measure, best sharps containment includes proper labeling on a red container.
Another consideration is whether to use disposable or reusable containers. Reusable containers, which help keep plastic out of landfills, must be processed at a licensed facility to avoid employee exposure and/or injury.
Step Three: Select the Optimal Locations
Sharps containers should be placed in areas where needles, scalpels, the exposed ends of dental wires and other types of sharps are frequently generated, which most often means patient care locations, laboratories, pharmacies and so on. They should be convenient and easily accessible so employees don’t have to walk far distances to reach a sharps container, thereby reducing the risk of a needle stick injury.
In some cases, an organization may opt to secure a sharps container to a mobile cart for even greater accessibility when staff move from room to room. To choose the right locations, safety leaders should observe the clinical environment to identify the most appropriate disposal points based on staff usage and workflow.
Step Four: Properly Install and Maintain Containers
Another key consideration involves keeping sharps containers in an upright position throughout use to avoid tipping. This requires organizations to secure containers appropriately as well as to replace the containers routinely to avoid overfilling.
To help with this effort, some waste management partners provide the service of picking up the full containers and providing clean empties. This removes the reordering burden from staff so they can focus on their core mission, while ensuring continuous compliance.
Get Peace of Mind with Specialized Expertise
When establishing a sharps disposal program, it is wise to consult with a highly-specialized resource experienced in OSHA’s requirements as well as different disposal options. Let Stericycle’s biohazardous waste disposal and sharps management services help you reach your goals and streamline the disposal process at your organization.
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