Sharps FAQ

Sharps are a common term in the healthcare industry, but what exactly are they?

Sharps are any objects that can puncture or cut the skin and cause injury.

A selection of sharps: a scalpel, syringe, and needles

This blog will answer the top 10 frequently asked questions about sharps. We will cover everything from who uses them to their associated risks. Learn how to prevent sharps injuries and exposure and what to do if you accidentally get stuck with a sharp object. Additionally, we'll discuss sharps containers, how to store and handle them, and laws and regulations regarding their disposal.

Keep reading to stay up to date on everything you need to know about safe sharps handling and disposal practices.

1. What are sharps?

Sharps are objects with sharp edges or points that can cause injury or transmit infectious diseases. In healthcare settings, sharp instruments include:

  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Lancets
  • Scalpels

They are used for various medical procedures and must be handled and disposed of properly to prevent injuries and infections.

2. Who uses sharps?

Various healthcare professionals, including nurses and doctors, use sharps. Other non-medical professions also make use of sharps, like tattoo artists. Sharps can be used in a domestic setting by individuals testing insulin levels with a glucose monitoring kit. It is essential for all individuals who handle sharps to undergo sharps awareness training to ensure safe handling and disposal practices.

3. What are the risks associated with sharps?

The risks associated with sharps include the potential dangers of injuries and the spread of diseases, particularly blood-borne viruses like HIV(human immunodeficiency virus) and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. It's crucial to implement safety measures to minimise these risks.

Risk of exposure to diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C

Sharps injuries can increase the risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. It is imperative to follow safe sharps practices to minimise this risk. These include using safety provisions like capped needles, safety syringes and sharps containers. Take care to avoid recapping needles and properly dispose of used sharps.

In case of a sharps injury, seeking immediate medical attention and reporting the incident to your employer or supervisor is crucial. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases and ensure the safety of healthcare workers.

4. What should I do if I accidentally get stuck with a sharp object?

In the event of a sharps injury, it is important to take immediate action. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention to assess the risk of infection or disease transmission. Report the incident and follow any necessary post-exposure protocols.

Emotional support and counselling may also be beneficial for those who experience sharps injuries.

5. How to prevent sharps injuries and exposure?

You can prevent sharps injuries and exposure by implementing a safe sharps policy. This includes proper sharps disposal, conducting an appropriate risk assessment, using personal protective equipment, and educating healthcare professionals through sharps awareness training. Following these preventive strategies can help you minimise the risk of accidental injury.

6. Safe disposal of used sharps and syringes?

To ensure safe disposal of used sharps, follow these guidelines:

  • use designated sharps bins,
  • comply with local safe sharps policies,
  • consider online training for disposal practices and
  • never throw sharps in the general waste bin or flush them down the toilet.

For more information, see our Safe Sharps Disposal at Home and Work article in our Knowledge Bank.

7. What is a safe sharps container?

A sharps container is a specially designed container used to safely store used sharps, such as needles and razor blades. It is puncture-resistant and has a secure lid to minimise the risk of injuries and contamination. Sharps containers help prevent accidents and maintain safety.

8. How should a sharps container be stored and handled?

Proper storage and handling of sharps containers is crucial. Safely store them out of reach of children and pets. Place them in easily accessible locations for healthcare professionals. Remember to avoid overfilling and ensure secure closure. Some sharps containers have "Do not fill above this line” printed on the outside to indicate when the container is full.

9. How do you dispose of sharps bins?

Properly disposing of sharps bins is crucial to prevent accidents and environmental contamination. If you work with sharps, your place of work may have designated collection points. Each area has local regulations for safe disposal. Your local government website should advise on sharps disposal for your area. You can find your local government's site here.

Do not use any other bins, like those for household waste or general recycling. Remember, adhering to disposal protocols helps protect against injuries and potential health risks.

10. Are there any regulations or laws regarding the disposal of sharps?

In the UK, specific regulations and laws are in place regarding sharps disposal are in place regarding sharps disposal. These include the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and local healthcare waste management policies.

Compliance with these regulations is crucial to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and the general public. The HSE provides resources such as PDF guides and online references to provide more information.

In Conclusion

Sharps are potentially dangerous objects that can cause injuries and transmit diseases if improperly handled.

Understanding the risks associated with sharps and taking necessary precautions to prevent injuries and exposure is crucial. If you accidentally get stuck with a sharp object, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Proper sharps disposal is vital to ensure the safety of healthcare workers, waste management personnel, and the general public.

Sharps should always be disposed of in designated sharps containers. Always follow local regulations and laws. Remember, taking the necessary steps to handle and dispose of sharps with safe practices can help protect yourself and others from harm.

Further Reading

Sharps Safety in Healthcare

Sharps Safety in Healthcare

Sharps Awareness

Don't let sharps safety become an issue in your workplace. Find out vital information on sharps safety awareness in healthcare.

Sharps Injury Risks and Prevention

Sharps Injury Risks and Prevention

Sharps Awareness

A sharps injury can be traumatising and dangerous. Learn how to prevent injury and what to do if the worst happens in this informative article.

Safe Sharps Disposal

Safe Sharps Disposal

Sharps Awareness

Wherever sharps are used, they must be disposed of safely. In this article: discover the most important information on safe sharps disposal.

Bethany Wesson

Bethany Wesson

Bethany is a freelance content writer and has produced articles for the Commodious Knowledge Bank since 2023. She has written about various health and safety topics, from asbestos to mindful business practices.

  • Sharps
  • Health and Safety