Sharps injuries are common in a laboratory environment and are a potential source of laboratory acquired infections and exposures. Housekeeping/DAR staff could also be impacted by improper disposal of sharps since housekeeping staff manages all non-hazardous waste. In order to mitigate hazards associated with sharps, laboratories must procure and use appropriate sharps containers in their labs. It is important to note that there is a difference between biohazardous, chemical hazardous, and non-hazardous sharps. In order to ensure appropriate disposal for sharps the correct sharps containers must be procured.
There are three types of sharps containers that may be used for disposal of sharps.
Biological Hazardous Sharps Containers
These containers are red and are labeled with the biohazard rosette. These containers may be purchased from various vendors. Once full, these containers are placed in a red biohazard bag and shipped in the regulated medical waste boxes through the VCU Regulated Medical Waste vendor. EHS does NOT pick up biohazardous sharps containers. Any sharps that are contaminated with biological hazards (human blood or blood products, infectious media, viral vectors, etc) must be disposed of in these containers.
Chemical Hazardous Sharps Containers
These containers are to be used for laboratories that do not work with biological hazards but do work with hazardous chemicals. These containers may be black, yellow, or even green in color and are not labeled with the biohazard rosette symbol. These containers may be purchased from various vendors and will be picked up by Environmental Health and Safety as hazardous waste, see hazardous waste pick up procedures (link to hazardous waste general page). Appropriate labels (red Hazardous Waste) must be affixed to all chemical sharps containers.
Non-Contaminated broken glass Containers
These containers are usually constructed out of thick cardboard and may also be purchased from various vendors. These containers are not labeled with any hazardous markings and are managed and handled through housekeeping. Only broken glass that is not contaminated with either chemicals or biological hazards must be disposed of in these containers (i.e. clean broken lab ware, clean broken bottles, etc). When full, seal the box, label as noninfectious glass waste & dispose with regular trash.
Safe Sharps Use Considerations
Provided below are some best practices and other considerations when working with sharps.
- Do not place sharps containers in the regular waste stream or used for any purpose other than sharps disposal.
- Place the sharps container within the immediate vicinity to facilitate disposal. All users should be able to see the top opening prior to disposal.
- Never recap needles.
- Never bend, break, or otherwise manipulate needles by hand.
- Discard the needle and syringe as an intact unit immediately after use.
- Never allow sharps containers to overfill; replace these containers when they are two-thirds to three-quarters full.
- Use tongs, two dust pans, or other devices to collect sharps (like broken glass) in spill situations. Individuals should never use their hands to collect sharps manually.
- Never remove scalpel blades by hand. Use a forceps, clamp, or other device instead.
- Load needles and syringes just prior to use. Avoid the transport of loaded syringes, which will require removal of the cap from a contaminated needle.
- Replace pins used to hold an animal secure during necropsy with tape to eliminate sharps.
- Place a needle box directly within the biological safety cabinet to ease sharps disposal.
- Use a 50ml Falcon tube or small plastic beaker to safely cover the sharp end of the needle if needed in between uses; never recap for this purpose.