Everything You Need To Know About Sharps Waste Disposal
31st January 2019
As a business owner, waste management can throw a number of curve balls at you, no matter what kind of waste you are dealing with. What you hope will be a simple and quick process can turn into an endless list of regulations and symbols that don’t seem to make any sense.
Though businesses that rely on instruments like needles and other sharp objects (such as the medical sector or tattoo parlors), are likely to be aware of sharps disposal, getting to grips with the details can sometimes be a challenge for new business owners.
Despite the mountain of regulations that come with any kind of waste disposal, it is important to be aware of the details and safety precautions that are associated with sharps disposal. By preparing yourself, you can ensure that the risk of injury or contamination is reduced significantly, and focus on the day-to-day running of your business.
What is sharps waste?
The term ‘sharps’ refers to any sort of waste that has the ability to pierce or puncture the skin. This definition does not necessarily refer to items that are specifically designed to puncture the skin. Sharps can refer to more common household items, such as knives, which can cause injury if handled amongst general waste.
Items classified under sharps waste include:
- Hypodermic needles
- Tattoo needles
- Piercing needles
- Disposable scalpels and blades
- Contaminated or broken glass and some plastics
- Razor blades
- Sharp knives
- Shards of bone or teeth
- Metal wire
Why does sharps waste need to be disposed of separately?
First and foremost, sharps can inflict injury on both the person disposing of the waste and the person removing the waste from the premises. In fact, according to the NHS, there have been 1,833 separate incident claims for needlestick injuries between 2012 and 2017. Because of this risk, it is imperative that sharps waste be stored and disposed of separately to prevent scratches, punctures, or any other sort of injuries to the skin.
Aside from physical injury, sharps waste can also carry the risk of infections, as they are often used for purposes that bring them into direct contact with bodily fluids (including blood). Though items such as scissors, staples or pins are unlikely to contain any hazardous material, this can never be guaranteed.
Regardless of whether the sharps waste is in the form a syringe or a broken piece of crockery, you can never know if there are traces of blood present. Contact with blood specifically should be the greatest concern and treated with the utmost caution, as even a small amount of infected fluid can spread diseases.
Besides the practical safety considerations regarding sharps waste disposal, it is also a legal obligation that is enforced by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Failure to comply with these regulations is considered a criminal act and can result in prosecution, serious fines, or even the closure of your business.
Does my business need sharps waste disposal?
Sharps waste disposal bins are a legal requirement for any public place, regardless of whether they use needles or syringes as part of their services. Sharps disposal bins could be needed in almost any industry; however, some common places where they are usually found include:
Due to their reliance on sharp instruments, medical institutions – such as hospitals or doctors surgeries – are one of the most common places to find sharps disposal bins. Sharps disposal is particularly vital in these industries, as they are also likely to be handling waste that is contaminated with hazardous substances, whether it be infected bodily fluids or pharmaceutical drugs.
Schools are, of course, in constant contact with sharp objects such as pins, scissors, staples and other stationary supplies that could be considered as sharps. However, the most common place a sharps disposal bin will be needed in a school is in the first aid room, where medical instruments may be used. This is also the case for any public place that has access to a first aid room, such as music festivals or theme parks.
- Beauty or cosmetic industry
Businesses such as tattoo parlours, piercing salons and hairdressers all use sharps on a regular basis, and will be in need of sharps waste disposal bins. Cosmetic salons that deal with procedures such as microblading, botox and liposuction also rely on sharps to perform their daily tasks.
- Food industry
Waste such as knives, broken glass and crockery all requires disposal in a dedicated sharps disposal bin.
- Clothing industry
Businesses such as tailors or shoemakers are likely to use needles on a regular basis, and these should also be disposed of correctly.
Which sharps waste disposal bin is right for my business?
To ensure you are disposing of your sharps waste in the correct way, sharps bins have three colour coded lids dedicated to each specific type of sharps waste. It is imperative that your sharps waste is disposed of in the correct bin in order to prevent the spread of hazardous material:
- Orange lidded bins are for sharps that contains no pharmaceutically contaminated waste. This includes sharps such as knives or stationary supplies, but is also for items that could pierce or puncture the skin (syringes for blood samples, acupuncture, tattoo or piercing needles etc).
- Yellow lidded bins are for any other partially empty or empty sharps that could be contaminated with medicines or anesthetics.
- Purple lidded bins are for sharps that are contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines. These can often be found in places offering hormone therapy or cancer treatment in the form of chemotherapy.
- Blue lidded bins are for sharps that contain out of date drugs, as well as any other items discarded within the handling of pharmaceuticals, such as gloves, bottles, masks, etc.
Where should sharps waste disposal bins be kept?
Because of their contents, sharps bins should be kept out of reach and away from children at all times. They should be kept at eye level and be easily accessible.
In order to lower the risk of injury or cross contamination, sharps disposal guidelines should be displayed next to every disposal bin and written in a clear and user-friendly way.
What is the safest way to dispose of sharps waste?
Sharps waste can be very dangerous and cause injuries if not handled correctly. It should be placed in the correct sharps waste disposal bin immediately and carefully after use.
In order to dispose of your sharps waste as safely as possible, the sharps waste should be dropped into the sharps disposal bin without touching the outside of the container. This prevents any possibility of cross contamination.
Under no circumstances should needles be pressed down into the container, as this could risk injury to the user, as well as the possibility of cross contamination if they do not wash their hands.
Sharps waste bins should be emptied once they are three quarters full, as this presents the lowest risk when handling the sharps waste. If bins are handled when completely full, needles and syringes could cause harm to the person moving or disposing of the waste.
Who disposes of my sharps waste bins?
For businesses that rely on sharps on a daily basis, such as medical industries or cosmetic salons, sharps waste is dealt with and collected by a licensed waste remover.
VR Sani-Co has been dealing in waste disposal services for over 16 years, and provides sharps disposal services for non-hazardous waste for orange, yellow and blue lidded sharps containers.
We supply a variety of sizes to suit your business, and operate under a fully flexible schedule. Whether you are in need of regular sharps waste removal on a pre-arranged schedule or on an ad hoc basis, VR Sani-Co can work around your needs to ensure that you are disposing of your waste as safely as possible.