Use and Disposal of "Sharps"

"Sharps" include hypodermic needles and syringes with needles, scalpels and razor blades, Pasteur pipettes and TLC spotting pipettes and general broken glass.

Hazards

  • Cuts or needle-stick (puncture) injuries.
  • Injection of (unknown) toxic or otherwise harmful material into the body from hypodermic needles or other contaminated sharps.
  • Psychological trauma due to the fear of poisoning or infection. Hypodermic needles carry particular emotional connotations which must not be underestimated.
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Risks

The risk of wounds from any sharp is significant and broken glass is the most common source of injury in the Dept of Chemistry. Damage can range from small cuts requiring only First Aid attention to severe lacerations requiring surgical repair. Injury from needle-stick is associated with psychological trauma due to the fear of poison or infection.

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Who is likely to be injured?

This is most likely to be the user themselves although carelessly disposed of sharps pose danger to cleaning Staff and waste-disposal personnel.

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Precautions

Use:

  • Sharps should be used as little as possible and always with the greatest care.
  • After use, if not for disposal, sharp items must always be placed in a safe position/orientation so as to avoid possible accidental injury to others.
  • The use of glassware is covered in the separate Risk Assessment "The Use of Glassware".

Disposal:

  • Sharps must never be disposed off in the normal waste bin.
  • Glass sharps i.e. broken glass, Pasteur pipettes, TLC spotting pipettes etc. must be washed clean before being immediately disposed of in the bin labelled and set aside for that purpose. Broken glass etc must never be left on floors or work surfaces or in unsuitable containers e.g. plastic bags or cardboard boxes. "Porcupines" of discarded Pasteur pipettes are dangerous and unacceptable. A brush and dustpan should be used to clear up broken glass. Special care should be taken when clearing broken glass from a sink where water can make sharp edges invisible: tongs can be used to pick out pieces.
  • Other sharps i.e. metal hypodermic needles; needles with fixed syringes, razor blades and scalpels must be disposed off in rigid, impervious containers which are discarded when full. Such containers are available from the Department of Chemistry Lab Supplies and must be returned there when full.
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Remaining Risks

Cuts from broken glass or the misuse of glass remain amongst the commonest form of injury in the Department of Chemistry. Great care is always required. Similar considerations apply to metal sharps.

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Emergency Procedures

  • Cuts should be treated immediately. No attempt should be made to remove broken glass from wounds. Needle stick injuries should be encouraged to bleed and an attempt should be made to identify any chemical in the needle that may have been injected.
  • Apart from very minor injuries, a First Aider should be called.
  • In the event of serious injury, the wounded should be directed to University Health and Wellness Centre or National University Hospital (NUH) AE&E

Back to Completed Risk Assessment Forms

Adapted with permission from School of Chemistry, University of Bristol

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