Sharps Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 62% to 88% of sharps injuries  can be prevented simply by using safer medical devices. Researchers should always consider what is  needed to safely handle any sharps that are used and identify the different scenarios when a sharps injury can occur. By identifying when a sharps injury can occur, it makes it simpler to evaluate
planned activities and reduce the likelihood of sharps injuries.

When do sharps injuries occur?

Puncture injuries occur at five different times:

  •  Before use
  • During use
  • After use and before disposal
  • During or after disposal
  • As a result of improper disposal

What is the proper disposal method for sharps?

Sharps disposal is extremely important. Lab personnel as well as non-laboratory workers can be injured by sharps that are not disposed of properly. This can present a very serious hazard. For example, leaving razor blades on the floor in the cold room or discarding syringes with needles into the regular trash can present a risk to any housekeeping personnel that maybe responsible for cleaning these areas. Sharps must be placed into a sharps container for disposal.

Are there any requirements for sharps containers?

According to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, a sharps container must meet the following requirements:
1. Closeable
2. Puncture Resistant
3. Rigid
4. Leak-proof
5. Appropriately labeled and color coded

Is it ok to have a few sharps containers for the entire lab?

The sharps container should be used until the container is 3/4ths full. At that time, the sharps container should be closed and taped securely. The sharps container should then be placed inside of the Stericycle box.

Are there any safe needle device options in addition to the traditional syringe?

Labs are encouraged to evaluate and purchase safer sharps devices as a method to reduce sharps injuries. A safer sharps device can prevent an injury by covering or isolating the sharp directly after use. There are safety scalpels, self-sheathing needles, retractable needles, and blunt tip syringes. All of these items are designed to reduce the likelihood of sharps injuries.

Are there any other tips on preventing sharps injuries in the lab?
It is the consistent practice of safe behavior that helps prevent accidents and minimizes exposure to contaminated sharps. Lab personnel can protect themselves by taking the following precautions:

  • Wearing appropriate PPE at all times
  •  Keeping sharps pointed away from the user and others
  • Double gloving
  •  Checking the work area for sharps before leaving (bench tops, lab coats, fume hoods, biological safety cabinets)
  • No needle recapping (if a procedure requires you to re-cap a needle, refer to EHSO’s Sharps Guidelines for safe alternatives)
  • Never put hands or fingers inside sharps containers
  • Evaluate/utilize safer sharps devices
  •  Know what to do in the event of an accidental needle stick

Reducing the risk of injury in the workplace is the responsibility of the user by ensuring that sharps are handled appropriately, stored correctly, and disposed properly. Safety is everyone’s responsibility. For additional information on sharps safety, review EHSO’s Sharps Guidelines (

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