Q: The question arose at my place of employment as to whether or not last week’s “Pardon my exclamation, but DON’T REMOVE DIRTY NEEDLES!”  applies if one is using safety needles. Is it acceptable to remove such needles from the syringe, especially to save space in the sharps container?
A: According to section (d)(2)(vii) of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, OSHA does not want any contaminated needles “bent, recapped, or removed,” unless there is a medical necessity. And that also means documenting it in your exposure control plan.
Contaminated needles are not to be removed—certainly not in the interest of saving space in the sharps disposal container.
OSHA wants the employer to eliminate any work practice that adds to the likelihood of exposure, and the extra handling of contaminated needles—whether the needles have safety features or not—definitely increases the risk of exposure.