A SHARP is any item that can cause a cut or puncture a human being. This definition is expanded to include any item that cut or puncture a container or bag. This includes glass, empty bottles, scalpel blades, razor blades syringes and needles. Plastic pipettes and pipette tips are a special type of sharp since they can puncture or cut under special circumstances. The expanded sharps can be called pseudo sharps.
Types of Sharps
Sharps can be classified as infectious, non-infectious and radioactive sharps.
These are sharps that are also considered infectious. Some items are considered infectious sharps regardless of use because of what they are by applying universal precautions. These include:
- Scalpel blades; and
- Razor blades.
These are sharps that are not known to be contaminated with infectious materials, yet are considered to infectious at all times applying Universal Precautions.
These are sharps that are known to be contaminated with a radioactive material. Radioactive sharps must be handled and disposed of as a radioactive waste
Pseudosharps can include:
- Plastic pipettes, which can go in a glass box or a biohazardous sharps container.
- Disposable pipette tips, which can go in a glass box or a biohazardous sharps container.
- GC Syringes, which are always considered biohazardous, these items must placed in a biohazardous sharps container.
Biological sharps are anything that can cause a cut or a puncture, and is either contaminated with an infectious organism or, by its nature, is always assumed to be infectious (University Precautions is often cited). Items automatically considered to be a biological sharp include:
- Scalpel Blades;
- Razor Blades; and
- Any item that is a sharp and would be associated with biohazardous work.
Many times, biological sharps are also considered to be bloodborne pathogens.
Biohazardous Sharps Containers
These containers will hold sharps that are either infectious or are always considered to be infectious based on Universal Precautions. Non-infectious sharps, non-infectious soft wastes and biohazardous soft wastes can also be placed in a biohazardous sharps container for disposal.
The container must be:
- Red or orange;
- Marked with the biohazard symbol; and
The container can be purchased professionally made or they can be made from existing materials. If a container can be sealed, leak proof, puncture resistant and has a biohazard label, it can be used as a biohazardous sharps container. The container must meet the requirements of a biohazardous sharps container, and can be labeled a biohazardous sharps container by adding a biohazardous sharps label to the outside of the container. If a sharp is dropped into a soft waste or the wrong sharps container by mistake, the bag or can can simply be placed into the correct container for disposal. These containers cannot weigh more than 50 lbs.
Glass boxes may be used for non-biohazardous sharps, such as uncontaminated glass that are not considered biohazards. These can be purchased or reused empty corrugated boxes. They will hold sharps that are not considered infectious. Pseudosharps that are not infectious may also be placed in a glass box for disposal. Glass boxes:
- Cannot weigh more than 50 lbs;
- Must be sealed (taped) shut;
- May not have anything sticking or poking out;
- May not be wet or damaged (bag lines may be necessary to keep the boxes dry);
- Must be marked, "Broken Glass, Sharps"; and
- Infectious sharps can never be placed in a glass box for disposal.
Pipette tips (1 µL, 100 µL, 1 mL, etc.) and graduated pipettes (5 mL, 10 mL, 25 mL, etc) may puncture through plastic trash bags, so these must also be disposed of in a specific manner. Non-contaminated pipette tips and graduated pipettes must be disposed of in a glassware box or a standard cardboard box lined with plastic to prevent leaks. Once the box is full, it should be securely closed with tape and the outside labeled "Non-biohazardous SHARPS for biological associated laboratories" or "Non-contaminated SHARPS for chemical related laboratories.” Custodial services will remove properly packaged and labeled containers. If the pipettes are contaminated with a biohazardous agent it must be handled as a biological sharp and disposed of in an appropriate container.