Disposing of Sharps: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Business Compliant
Waste Management can seem like a whirlwind of regulations, especially if you’re a new business owner or if you face changes in your waste disposal needs. Don’t panic! Free yourself from stressing over what to do with waste by following our straightforward guide on sharps disposal. Let’s begin with the basics…
What are sharps?
“Sharps” is a term referring to any sharp device with points/edges that may cause punctures or cuts, from medical instruments like needles, syringes and lancets, to more domestic items like blades, scissors and broken glass/crockery/plastic. Even shards of bone and teeth are classed as sharps.
Safe management of sharps is covered under UK health and safety legislation. Sharps are particularly hazardous when they are contaminated and pose a risk of infection. Be extra cautious with sharps soiled by blood, body fluid or medication, as they are classed as biohazardous material.
The following businesses all use various types of sharps:
- Hospitals, clinics and medical centres
- Beauticians and salons
- Care homes
- Nurseries and schools
Sharps disposal guidelines
How should sharps be disposed of?
Whether sharps are used in a home or work environment, they must be disposed of safely. Anyone who deals with sharps is responsible for disposing of them in a way that will minimise risk of injury.
Sharps bins are yellow with colour coded lids, and they’re legally necessary for all businesses that use sharps. They’re made of a hard, puncture-proof plastic so that sharps waste can be safely contained without posing a risk of injury. Get to know what each colour means:
- Orange lidded containers are for non-pharmaceutically contaminated sharps (such as sharps used for blood samples or acupuncture)
- Yellow lidded containers are for other partially discharged and empty sharps (including those contaminated with medicines or anaesthetics)
- Purple lidded containers are for cyto sharps (sharps contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines)
Sharps disposal policy
Now you know about colour coordinated sharps bins, it’s time to get to grips with the main policies and guidelines of sharps disposal:
- Avoid any unnecessary use of sharps
- Use “safer sharps” with after-use covers
- Discard immediately after use (don’t leave sharps lying around before proper disposal)
- Place sharps bins at eye level, within arm’s reach for easy accessibility
- Keep sharps bins away from children
- Ensure bins are labelled and assembled correctly, and do not overfill!
- Arrange bin collection once sharps bin is full and store safely in the meantime
- Make all relevant personnel aware of sharps disposal guidelines
- Display safe disposal instructions
- Report, record and investigate incidents of non-compliance or injury
What are the consequences of incorrect Waste Management?
Disposing of sharps properly isn’t just a good gesture, it’s a legal obligation. Health and safety law is criminal law, so business owners must ensure that employees adhere to the legislation put in place for everyone’s wellbeing.
Failure to comply with regulations makes businesses vulnerable to prosecution, fines and even closure. A business’s reputation can be ruined by a sharps injury. In 2010, a hospital trust was fined over £20,000 after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to a sharps incident. Personal injury cases may be taken under civil law, causing time and expenditure to go towards resolution and compensation.
Preventative control measures are the most cost-effective way to keep businesses safe and legally compliant. Anyone who deals with sharps must implement safety methods like correct sharps bins, employee training and trusted waste collections.
Sharps disposal posters
Businesses should fulfil their Duty of Care obligations by displaying a sharps disposal guidance poster for all employees to see as a regular reminder of disposal rules. A sharps disposal poster provides user-friendly text and clear instructions on injury prevention and legally compliant safety measures.
Did you know? No matter how in-the-know you are, your business is only as compliant as your Waste Management provider. Visit here to learn about our professional, nationwide sharps disposal service.