Location, location, location: The keys for sharps disposal containers safety

By: March 3rd, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Disposal is one of the prime times for needlesticks to occur, according to the CDC’s Workbook for Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating a Sharps Injury Prevention Program.

Failing to engage the device’s safety feature, putting down the device and then picking it up, walking out of the exam room with a sharp, or difficulty in reaching the container or seeing the opening, are just some of the safety missteps that can occur when disposing of contaminated sharps.

Wall-mounted sharps containers should be installed 52–56 inches above the floor to accommodate 95% of the adult population, according to NIOSH’s Selecting, Evaluating, and Using Sharps Disposal Containers.

Installing at the proper height alone won’t remove all sharps disposal container location hazards. Distance to containers, obstacles in the path, concealed placement for security or aesthetic reasons, and even poor lighting conditions contribute to sharps injuries during disposal.

The NIOSH list of inappropriate sharps container locations includes in the corners of
rooms, on the backs of doors, under cabinets, on inside cabinet doors, under sinks, in areas where people might sit or lie beneath the container, near light switches or room environmental controls, or where the container is subject to impact from pedestrian traffic or moving equipment.

OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)(2)(i) requires sharps disposal containers to be “easily accessible to personnel and located as close as is feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used.” Recent initial fines for this type of violation in healthcare facilities averaged $829.

The “Needlestick Prevention Training Video” clip on the Video Library page can to help educate you and your staff members on hazards during sharps disposal.

hcpro-audio-conference-logosmDid you find this advice helpful? Learn how you can get all your OSHA questions answered by registering for OSHA Healthcare Advisor’s “Q&A Roundtable: Solutions to Your Compliance Challenges” audioconference.


Can i put the sharp container on the beanch in the working area in the laboratory ?

Can you locate a sharps container directly on the floor? Not on wheels but directly on the floor.

By David LaHoda on October 5th, 2010 at 10:53 am

Floor location is not ideal for small sharps disposal containers, but for large containers it could be both safe and practical, if there are precautions taken against tipping it over. The floor is not specified as a prohibitive location in the NIOSH document referenced in the post above.

If placed on top of a mobile blood collection trolley for use on wards, would you see that as practical? As it is easily accesible but unsteady when the trolley is in motion considering bumps and entering/exiting lifts enroute.

By David LaHoda on June 3rd, 2011 at 7:15 am

Not all sharps disposal containers are appropriate for use on carts, especially if the container’s doors or closings do not guard against accidental spillage as OSHA makes clear in the interpretation letter: “The applicability of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standards to the use of sharps containers on hospital crash carts.”

For a typical doctors office with treatment rooms, we have to leave the treatment room with the sharp, to get to the sharps container. Is that a no-no?

By David LaHoda on September 2nd, 2011 at 11:15 am

Having to leave the room with a contaminated sharp in hand does not meet the Contaminated Sharps Discarding and Containment section, 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A), of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard which says: “Contaminated sharps shall be discarded immediately or as soon as feasible in containers that are…Easily accessible to personnel and located as close as is feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used or can be reasonably anticipated to be found…”

I have inherited a policy that I am struggling with. We are a privately owned multi-site allergy office.It has been the practice to leave the key in the lock of our wall mounted sharps containers in the exam rooms, I believe they could be in a drawer in the exam room but not in the lock, am I correct?

We have our sharps in a drawer beneath a bench seat on our ambulances. Is it safe to place clean IV catheters in that same drawer with a divider between th container and the IV catheters? If not, can you link information that I can access? Thank you

I took my mother to the doctor twice so we were in two different rooms and the keys to the sharps container were hanging from the lock. I also saw this in rooms we passed n the hall. This cannot be legal!


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