3 FAQs Concerning OSHA's Rules for Sharps Containers
Here are three frequently asked questions about OSHA's rules concerning sharps containers and the federal agency's responses to those questions.
Q: How should sharps containers be handled?
OSHA: Each sharps container must either be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol and the word "biohazard" or be color-coded red. Sharps containers shall be maintained upright throughout use, replaced routinely, and not be allowed to overfill when removing sharps containers from the area of use, the containers shall be:
- Closed immediately prior to removal or replacement to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, transport, or shipping;
- Placed in a secondary container if leakage is possible. The second container shall be:
- Constructed to contain all contents and prevent leakage during handling, storage, transport, or shipping; and
- Labeled or color-coded according to paragraph (g)(1)(i) of the standard.
-Reusable containers shall not be opened, emptied, or cleaned manually or in any other manner which would expose employees to the risk of percutaneous injury.
Upon closure, duct tape may be used to secure the lid of a sharps container as long as the tape does not serve as the lid itself.
Q: Where should sharps containers be located?
OSHA: Sharps containers must be easily accessible to employees and located as close as feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used (e.g., patient care areas) or can be reasonably anticipated to be found (e.g., laundries).
In areas, such as correctional facilities and psychiatric units, there may be difficulty placing sharps containers in the immediate use area. If a mobile cart is used in these areas, an alternative would be to lock the sharps container in the cart.
Q: What type of container should be purchased to dispose of sharps?
OSHA: Sharps containers are made from a variety of products from cardboard to plastic. As long as they meet the definition of a sharps container, (i.e., containers must be closable, puncture resistant, leakproof on sides and bottom, and labeled or color-coded), OSHA would consider them to be of an acceptable composition.
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