Carefully consider the need to use sharp devices, such as needles and glass pipettes. Penetration of the skin with a biologically-contaminated sharp device can result in transmission of microorganisms and viruses that could lead to serious infections.
Working WIth Sharps: Guidelines
Whenever possible, eliminate the use of devices, including Pasteur pipettes, that can puncture your skin.
- As part of your risk assessment process, identify all sharps you are using in your procedures and consider if an alternative is available.
Restrict the use of sharp-tipped needles for procedures for which there is no alternative.
- Blunt cannulas can be used to replace sharp-tipped needles for certain procedures such as oral or intranasal animal inoculations, resuspending lyophilized material through a rubber seal or filling microfluidic chambers.
Pasteur pipettes, capillary tubes and glass septum vials will create a sharp hazard if broken.
- Consider replacing Pasteur pipettes with plastic aspirating pipettes.
Plastic aspirating pipette and blunt-tipped needle
Consider the use of sharps with an engineered safety device if available and feasible for your procedure.
- You can find a list of alternatives to conventional sharps here.
Seek training in proper techniques prior to using sharp devices in conjunction with potentially infectious materials.
- Poor technique can increase your risk of sustaining a sharps exposure. Practice in a controlled setting before using a sharp with potentially infectious material.
Use scalpels safely.
- Don’t use scalpel blades without a handle. The handle provides you with a means to control the blade and puts a barrier between your hand and the sharp edge.
- Use disposable safety scalpels with fixed blades when possible. These devices eliminate the need to remove a blade, which is difficult to do in a safe manner.
- If you must use a reuseable scalpel, choose a device with engineered safety features that allow you to enclose the blade prior to removal. If a safety-engineered blade is not an option, you must use forceps to remove the blade.
Don’t leave sharp devices out in the environment.
- Place used, disposable sharps directly into a sharps container immediately after use. Do not recap needles prior to disposal of the device.
- For reuseable sharps, such as knives or scissors, a storage container—such as a tray or inexpensive emesis basin—should be readily available at the point of use.
During animal perfusion procedures, place the needle/syringe into a tray or basin in between uses.
Do not use syringes with needles attached as a specimen container if other alternatives exist.
- If there are no other alternatives, place the needle and syringe in a leak-proof secondary container with a secure lid for transport.
Take precautions when cleaning/disinfecting sharps.
- When cleaning and reprocessing reuseable sharps, use cleaning tools, such as a brush or sponge on a handle, that limits the potential for contact between your hands and the sharps surfaces.
Never put excessive force on a sharp.
- Bending or breaking sharps increases your risk of sustaining a puncture wound.
Use an appropriate sharps container for disposal of sharps waste.
- Makeshift containers such as beakers, coffee cans, bleach bottles, etc., are not appropriate sharps containers.
Do not overfill sharps containers.
- Sharps should drop freely into the container. If items don’t fall into the container, it is too full or the wrong size.
Close and lock sharps containers when they are 3/4 full.
- Don’t use the sharps container for gauze or gloves or other items that take up space and prevent the sharp from falling freely into the container.
- Don’t shake sharps containers to make more room. Shaking creates aerosols and can cause items to come out of the containers.
- Don’t force a sharp into a container and never retrieve an item from a sharps container with your hand.
- When the sharps container is 3/4 full, close and lock the lid and place container into a regulated medical waste box.
Information in this section was adapted from Vanderbilt University's "Using Sharps Safely in the Lab"