Sharps Safety

Precaution must always be taken when using items such as needles, glass slides and cover slips, glass stir rods, pipettes, capillary tubes, scalpels/blades, or potentially even petri dishes (if these break then they have sharp edges).  The most common causes of needle sticks/sharps injuries are re-capping needles, improper disposal of needles, cuts caused by breakage of pipettes/capillary tubes, etc., and cuts caused by handling broken glassware.

All sharps injuries carry the risk of secondary infections in addition to exposure to the item’s content and/or contamination on the outside of the needle or other sharp instrument.  Furthermore, needle/syringe usage may present a risk of exposure to infectious agents or other hazardous materials via sprays and aerosols, particularly from non needle-locking syringes.  The following guidelines are modified from the University of Minnesota’s Sharps Safety page.

Sharps Policies; Use Safety-Engineered Sharps
  • Needles and syringes, or other sharp instruments, should be used only when there is no alternative.
  • Plasticware should be substituted for glassware whenever possible.
  • Use needleless systems, blunt-ended needles, syringes that re-sheathe the needle, safety scalpels, or other sharps safety devices whenever possible.  For example:
  • Procedure-specific handling and disposal of sharps must be included in your lab’s written Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Perform an annual review your lab’s need to use sharps.  Is it possible to modify a procedure so sharps are not needed?
  • Note: The need to re-use and/or re-cap needles, along with the method employed, must be documented in your Standard Operating Procedures.  The BMBL does not permit re-capping of needles used in BSL-2 procedures for any reason.


Handling Procedures
  • Needles must not be bent, sheared, broken, recapped, removed from disposable syringes, or otherwise manipulated before disposal.
  • Do not pick up broken glass with hands.  Use mechanical means such as a brush and dustpan, tongs, or forceps.


If You Must Re-Use or Re-Cap a Needle/Syringe

If there is no alternative to re-using a needle/syringe for a specific procedure:

  • Avoid re-capping the needle by placing the needle/syringe in a tray or other protective container for transportation or storage between injections.
  • If there is no alternative to re-capping the needle:
    • First choice: use a re-sheathing needle, or an automatic re-sheathing needle.
    • Second choice: use a simple and inexpensive mechanical device to safely hold caps while re-capping.   For example, this device from Medi-Dose sits on a bench top and holds the cap while the syringe/needle is inserted; twist the needle/syringe to remove from the device.

If the above re-sheathing or mechanical re-capping devices do not work for an application, for RG1 Agents only:

  • The one-handed scoop method may be used to recap the needle. 
  • Place the cap on the counter top and “scoop” it up with the needle, keeping your free hand out of the way.
  • Documentation must demonstrate that re-sheathing or mechanical re-capping devices cannot be implemented.


Spray and Aerosol Prevention
  • Needles & Syringes. Sprays or aerosols may be generated if a needle disengages from a syringe.  CDC/NIH guidelines in BMBL states, “Only needle-locking syringes or disposable syringe-needle units (i.e., needle is integral to the syringe) are used for injection or aspiration of infectious material.”
    • Use needle-locking syringes for all needle/syringe applications to prevent exposure to sprays and aerosols.  This includes injections, filtration, transfer of liquids, and loading columns.
    • The use of needle-locking syringes will also prevent the loss of valuable samples.  One cc syringes are now available with needle locks or permanently attached needles.
  • Follow these guidelines for preventing aerosol production.


Sharps Disposal
  • Promptly dispose of all used sharps into the sharps container.  Do not re-cap used needles; instead place them directly into the sharps container.
  • Place broken glass into the broken glass containers.
  • Place the sharps containers within easy reach of work stations where sharps are generated.
  • Use a size and shape container that will allow the sharp to freely and completely enter the container.
  • Never fill containers more than 3/4 full.
  • Bring the full sharps container to RNS 341, or contact a Stockroom Manager or the CHO for container removal.
  • If you need a new sharps or broken glass container then contact the Stockroom Manager.