A container for sharps waste to be used during storage and/or disposal must follow certain guidelines. Unlike household waste, improperly disposed sharps waste can cause immediate harm. Blood in sharps waste may be a vector for blood-borne pathogens that cause diseases, notably hepatitis B and C, and AIDS.
Contact can result through cuts, needle pricks and puncture injuries. The actual risk of getting an infection in a single needlestick injury ranges from 0.3% for AIDS to 33% for hepatitis B. It only takes one prick to become infected for life. Needlesticks, puncture wounds or cuts can easily be prevented through proper handling and disposal of sharps. And one way to do this is by using a proper sharps disposal container.
What is sharps waste anyway?
Waste materials considered sharps include items that possess corners, edges and projections that can cut or pierce the skin. Materials such as used needles and syringes, and blades such as used scalpels and razors, are considered sharps waste. Broken glassware contaminated with biohazardous substances such as body fluids, inoculate samples and culture mediums is also considered sharps waste.
How to choose a proper sharp disposal container
An ideal sharps container is leak-proof and puncture-proof to effectively contain its contents, protect people who handle the waste, and prevent harm to the environment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidelines for the recommended structure of sharp disposal containers, which we will discuss below.
The size of the container should also reflect the amount of waste generated each day. For a scale, the approximate capacity of a one-quart bin is up to 500 needles or 36 insulin syringes.
Here are the essential rules to follow in selecting a sharps disposal container:
- The disposal container for sharps must be highly visible to workers. It must be located at eye-level in the facility. The container must also follow color-coding standards in the area.
- The sharps disposal container must be located in an area with no obstacles between the site of use and the container.
- A sharps disposal container must be sufficiently large enough to accommodate the size of sharps waste generated in the area.
- The sharps disposal container must be functional throughout use, and easily accessible to workers who use, maintain and dispose of sharp devices.
- The sharps waste container must have solidly built walls thick enough to prevent puncture of the container. A sharps waste container made from heavy-duty plastic is preferred.
- The sharps waste container must be leak-proof from the bottom to its sides. It must also have a cap that enables the filled container to be sealed shut for disposal.
- The sharps waste container must be vividly labeled to indicate that it contains sharps. The label for the waste container must be difficult to remove.
- Sharps waste containers must be sufficiently anchored to prevent slipping. Therefore, the container must have features that allow it to be stabilized while in use.
- The sharps waste container must be stable and remain upright during use to prevent any spillage of contents.
- The sharps container must be filled only to ¾ of its capacity. Therefore, a sharps disposal container with a feature that allows visualization of its contents must be chosen.
- Sharps waste with hazardous chemicals must be placed in a chemical-appropriate container that has a tight seal and clear label.
- Sharps waste contaminated with radiation-emitting substances must be further segregated by half-life.
Aside from using the proper container, the handling and disposal of sharps waste must be done in compliance with local, state and federal laws. Only personnel properly trained to handle sharps waste must handle sharps waste disposal containers.