16 March 2018
Sharps disposal is a key part of a regulated medical waste management program. Determining what, where and when to get rid of these hazardous items is critical to ensuring staff safety and comprehensive compliance.
When people think of sharp objects in a healthcare environment, things like needles and scalpels often come to mind—and certainly these are some of the most common items. However, when it comes to ensuring proper disposal in the context of a medical waste management program, the definition can be much broader—and there are some potentially dangerous items that may not be as obvious.
For example, unbroken glass is technically not sharp in its original form, but when thrown away, it could easily break or shatter, and therefore become a hazard. Or, what about wires, such as those used in orthodontia? While they may not cut someone per se, they can cause a scrape or puncture wound, creating a safety hazard when dealt with improperly.
Healthcare organizations need to be clear about what constitutes as sharp when designing a comprehensive regulated medical waste management program. As mentioned in a previous article, consulting your state’s requirements—a summary of which can be found on Stericycle.com, under ‘Find Your Location’—is an important first step. However, taking it one step beyond that and thinking about best practices when disposing of these objects is key to ensuring a safe environment for staff and patients. For instance, not every state requires organizations to treat unbroken glass as a sharp, however, it is a good idea to enhance safety and something to seriously consider.
You should also be careful about where you position sharps disposal containers at your organization. Since regulated medical waste must be segregated at the point of origin, red plastic containers that are impervious to piercing and are thoroughly labeled as biohazardous are crucial to any healthcare organization in order to safely and compliantly dispose of these items. As a best practice, you should put these containers in locations where sharps will be used, including exam rooms, laboratories, pharmacies, nurses’ stations and so on.
In addition, be aware of 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 the time limitations in force in your particular State.
Proper sharps disposal is essential to waste management compliance. Stericycle can help with these efforts by sharing best practices, supplying appropriate containers, offering staff training modules and disposing of full containers. For more information on how Stericycle can be your waste management partner, call 855-602-6279.
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