Overview – Sharps
A ‘sharp’ in health care is defined as anything that can penetrate the skin. Sharps encountered in general practices and other office- and community-based practices include needles and syringes (considered as a single unit as they are not to be disconnected), scalpel blades, stitch cutters, glass ampoules and vials, sharp plastic items, punch biopsy equipment, lancets, any other sharp surgical instrument for disposal, retractable sharps such as lancets for glucose testing, wire cytology brushes, razors, scissors and box cutters.
Healthcare workers are at risk of injury from sharps during many routine procedures and during disposal. The safe handling, transport and disposal of sharps is necessary to prevent injury and the possible transmission of infection to patients, doctors, other health professionals, practice staff and cleaning contractors.
Sharps may be contaminated by biological substances (eg blood, microorganisms) as well as other hazardous substances (eg medicines, chemicals). All sharps, unless known to be sterile, should be considered contaminated and disposed of in appropriate sharps containers.
Clear protocols for safe handling, use and disposal of sharps are necessary to prevent injury that could lead to infection.
Staff must never handle sharps needles or blades directly, even while gloved.
All staff who may come in contact with sharps need education about the safe use and disposal of sharps.
The infection prevention and control coordinator could educate, train and lead the team to practising safe sharps management consistently.