Hospital workers are always at risk of contracting deadly diseases since they work closely with sharps that could contaminate bloodborne diseases. Hence, it is a must for hospital employers to ensure that all their workers follow correct guidelines as prescribed by health and safety companies to maintain workplace safety and health.
However, not only health care workers are at risk of compromising their health as a result of mishandling and improper disposal of medical sharps. Even common people are likewise at risk of contracting serious medical illnesses since almost anyone can use sharps at home. Used sharps may contain bloodborne pathogens like HIV, AIDS, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, among many more. Because of this, prompt and proper disposal of medical needles or sharps is extremely necessary to prevent spread of said diseases. In developed and underdeveloped countries, proper disposal of sharps is practiced to ensure the health of not only workers but patients as well.
Sharps containers play a vital role in proper and sanitary disposal of sharps. Health organizations around the world share the same standards for sharps containers. In Australia, all sharps containers should be:
- Made of heavy-duty plastic
- Leak-resistant (side and bottom part)
- Able to close with a tight-itting, puncture-proof lid, and without sharps being overfilled
- Upright and stable during utilization
- Properly labeled and colored
While each hospital’s guidelines and policies on proper handling and disposal of sharps may vary, they almost always share the same concepts. Basically, what’s important in handling and disposal of medical sharps is that they cannot cut or puncture individuals. Below are some of the more specific guidelines or dos and don’ts commonly followed by medical facilities around the world not excluding Australia.
- Do use sharps containers that are approved to AS4031/92 (for disposable containers) – Australian Standard.
- Do use sharps containers that are properly labeled and have the color corresponding to its use.
- Do use proper alternative container in case you don’t have industry-standard container (in case of household use and disposal).
- Do bring an industry-standard portable sharps container if you are going on a travel for medical purposes.
- Do contact your local public health agency to be informed about proper sharps disposal program in your area.
- Do obey your local public health agency’s guidelines on proper disposal of sharps like medical needles and IV catheters.
- Do ask your health care provider, physician, licensed nurse, or local hospital about where to get sharps container in case you would need one for household use.
- Do properly label sharps containers before disposing them, and make sure that they are tightly sealed, following guidelines provided by your local public health agency or local trash disposal agency.
- Do contact the company that produced your sharps container in case it has some issues
- Do not put sharps container where children and pets could reach
- Do not use an alternative container that do not have the same characteristics as an industry-standard container
- Do not deviate from proper sharps disposal prescribed by your local public health office
- Do not loose needles and other sharps into the trash
- Do not flush sharps down the toilet
- Do not put sharps in recycling bin
- Do not remove the needle without using a needle clipper
- Do not remove, bend, or break needles that were already used by another person
- Do not share needles with anyone
Since any person who uses sharps is at risk of contracting bloodborne diseases, it is vital for anyone to learn even the most basic information about proper disposal of sharps. Hence, it is important to consult with health and safety companies. In order to prevent diseases associated with improper handling and disposal of sharps, make sure to follow the abovementioned dos and don’ts.