Skip to main content

Sharps Safety

All personnel must take precautions to prevent injuries when using sharp instruments or devices during and after procedures, when cleaning used instruments, and during disposal of used needles and sharps.

Protect housekeeping staff, yourself, and the entire WCU community by disposing of needles safely!  Safe needle disposal is easy and protects us all from accidental needle sticks and the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis.  Follow the DO's and DON'Ts for the safe disposal of needles and other sharps used at home, at work, or while traveling.  A Sharps Safety Flyer is available to print and post in an area to raise awareness for safer needle disposal.

  1. All personnel handling sharps when working with human blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM) must review the Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Program and complete the required training.
  2. Follow Universal Precautions and treat all materials as if they are potentially infectious.
  3. Needles, scalpels, lancets, glass slides, cover slips, and glass pipettes all pose potential sharps hazards in laboratories; therefore, plasticware should be substituted whenever possible.
  4. All personnel must be trained on the availability and use of approved safety devices where appropriate for their work responsibilities.  Where feasible, sharps with engineered sharps injury protection, such as self-sheathing needles, retractable needles, or needleless systems must be used.  A detailed description of safer sharps handling and the types of safety devices currently available, including animations on how they work, can be found on the OSHA website for Safer Needle Devices.
  5. Needles must not be recapped, purposely bent or broken, removed from disposable syringes, or otherwise manipulated by hand.  Exceptions, such as when needles must be recapped for sterility (i.e. re-use of needle on the same patient) must be approved by the Safety Office.
  6. Any approved recapping procedure must be done either by using a recapping device or a one-handed scoop method for recapping.  The one-handed scoop technique uses the needle itself to pick up the cap, and then the cap is pushed against a hard surface to ensure a tight fit onto the device.  Immediately after use, these sharps must be placed into appropriate containers.
  7. Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.  The supervisor should assess the exposure potential for procedures perfomed and identify the necessary PPE for personnel.  
  1. Broken glassware and other sharps should not be handled directly, and must be cleaned up using mechanical devices such as a dustpan, cardboard, or tongs.
  2. After use, disposable syringes and needles, scalpel blades, scissors, slides, any activated or inactivated safety devices, and other sharp items must immediately, or as soon as feasible, be placed in an approved sharps container.
  3. The sharps container must be:
  • Puncture resistant
  • Leakproof on sides and bottom
  • Labeled with biohazard symbol or color coded red for infectious sharps waste
  • Labeled as "non-infectious" or "non-contaminated" sharps waste when applicable
  • Easily accessible and located as close as is feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used
  • Maintained upright with a clear line of sight to the disposal opening
  • Be replaced when they become 3/4 full or are at the indicated fill-line
  • Placed in a secondary container if leakage is possible
  • Closed immediately and securely sealed with tape prior to removal to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, or transport.

Types of Sharps Waste

  • Regulated medical waste sharps are collected for incineration disposal by a third party vendor.
  • Autoclaved biological sharps are collected by Safety and Risk Management for disposal.
  • Broken glass disposal boxes should be used for non-contaminated glass disposal and sealed properly prior to disposal in the regular trash.
  • Contaminated glass should be collected in a sharps container and labeled for hazard waste disposal.
  • Pipettes are considered a sharps hazard and should be collected in puncture-resistant containers marked as "non-infectious sharps" or "biohazardous sharps" depending on usage and sealed properly prior to disposal.

Contact Safety and Risk Management for questions concerning sharps disposal or to request a container pickup.

An injury should immediately be washed thoroughly with soap and water and reported to the supervisor.  Information regarding sharps injuries must be forwarded to the Safety and Risk Management Office within 24 hours of the incident.  The following information should be supplied when reporting an incident:

  • Type, brand, and purpose of device involved in the incident (if known)
  • Location where the incident occurred
  • Occupation of the injured employee
  • An explanation of how the injury occurred

An incident involving percutaneous injury (i.e. needle stick, scalpel) and exposure to blood, other body fluids, or high titers of cell-associated or free virus must be documented in the Sharps Injury Log maintained by the Safety and Risk Management Office.  The Safety Office will review the exposure and other blood or body fluid exposure protocols will be instituted, as indicated.

All personnel handling sharps must be trained in safe work practices specific to the potential hazards.  Hands-on training provided directly by the supervisor, or other assigned individual, must be documented using a training checklist or standard operating procedure (SOP).  Training records should be available upon request during a safety inspection.

Employees will be assigned sharps safety training through their Vivid learning online training portal.  

A Sharps Safety Training presentation is provided as a resource for sharps safety training in healthcare.


Office of Web Services