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Ensuring sharps containers meet standards

July 30, 2015

Sharps safety is a crucial part of ensuring that healthcare workers are able to work without increased occupational hazards. An important aspect of this is disposing of needles once they have been used.

In order to ensure that used medical sharps are safely contained, bins need to meet required standards. This helps limit the chance that healthcare workers or anyone else could be injured by a used sharp that has perforated the container.

Noel Randon Kelsh, who is a member of the editorial review committee for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention newsletter and owns her own dental hygiene practice, has highlighted a key number of areas that can be used to ensure that sharps containers are fit for purpose at all times.

Writing for RDH magazine, she emphasises the importance of a number of things, including point of contact. Ms Kelsh says that contaminated sharps should be put in a sharps container as soon as possible after each use. This reduces the amount of time that a medical sharp may be exposed, which puts people at risk of suffering an injury, which could spread bloodborne pathogens.

Putting a sharp in a container as soon as it has been used eliminates the risk of injury. Ms Kelsh also supports guidelines, which state that bins should be placed as near to the site of the procedure as possible, reducing the danger of transporting needles.

Because of this, it's also important to have more than one sharps container, though the precise number will depend on the size and structure of the organisation or hospital. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines are very specific about what makes an adequate sharps container, with employers having to provide bins that have closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof sharps containers that are appropriately labelled and colour-coded. 

Sharps containers should be red, as this highlights it as a biohazard and an appropriate symbol should also be placed on the label. 

According to OSHA, containers must also have an opening that is large enough to accommodate disposal of the entire blood collection assembly (needles, blades, etc.). Each bin should also have a fill-to line, which should never be passed to ensure that sharps are always appropriately contained.

Sharps containers also need to have a lid that will seal completely, which prevents spills if the bins need to be transported.

Reminding healthcare workers of the guidelines that sharps containers should have is an important part of ensuring that their risk of being exposed to occupational hazards are as minimal as possible.

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