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The Vital Role of Sharps Containers in Public Health

June 18, 2024

One often overlooked but critical component of maintaining a safe environment is the proper handling and disposal of sharps. Sharps containers play a vital role in protecting healthcare workers and the public from the risks associated with needlestick injuries and the transmission of bloodborne pathogens. 

Understanding the Importance of Sharps Safety

Sharps, including needles, blades, and other pointed instruments, pose significant hazards in medical settings. Improper disposal can lead to needlestick injuries (NSI), which carry the risk of transmitting serious infections like HIV, hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV). Statistics reveal that the risk of infection following a needlestick exposure is approximately 0.3% for HIV, 6% to 30% for HBV, and 3.3% to 10% for HCV. These numbers underscore the critical need for effective sharps management practices.

The Public Health Impact of Sharps Containers

Sharps containers are designed to provide a secure and effective solution for disposing of used sharps, minimizing the risk of injury and infection. They are a cornerstone of public health, ensuring that healthcare environments remain safe for both workers and patients.

Key Benefits of Proper Sharps Disposal

  • Prevention of Injuries: Properly designed sharps containers significantly reduce the risk of needlestick injuries, protecting healthcare workers and patients, ultimately the public.
  • Infection Control: By safely containing used sharps, these containers prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens, contributing to overall public health.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Using OSHA-compliant sharps containers ensures that healthcare facilities adhere to safety regulations, avoiding legal issues and potential fines.

Innovative Sharps Safety Solutions from MYCO Medical

MYCO Medical offers a range of sharps safety products that are both easy to use and highly effective. These products are designed to meet OSHA standards and ensure the safe handling and disposal of sharps. One of these products is the QLICKSMART® BladeCASSETTE Blade Remover. Its features include the following:

  • OSHA compliant with single-handed activation
  • Compatible with most brands of general surgery blades and flat handles
  • Audible click ensures proper placement and blade removal
  • Red arrows indicate proper insertion location
  • Available as sterile or non-sterile
  • Sterilization options include ETO or gamma radiation

The QLICKSMART® BladeCASSETTE Blade Remover is a crucial tool for safely removing surgical blades. Its single-handed operation and audible click system enhance user safety, making it an indispensable device in dental and surgical settings. 

Another product, the QLICKSMART® BladeFLASK - Non-Sterile holds up to 100 blades and is puncture-proof. Its features are the following:

  • OSHA compliant with single-handed activation when used with the reusable QLICKSMART® BladeFLASK Mounting Bracket (sold separately)
  • Mountable on a wall or desk using the mounting bracket (adhesive backing and screw mounts included)
  • Audible click for proper placement and blade removal
  • Built-in counter with automatic shut-off when full
  • Compatible with most brands of general surgery blades and flat handles

The QLICKSMART® BladeFLASK is designed for efficient and safe disposal of blades. Its puncture-proof construction and automatic shut-off feature ensure that it remains a safe and reliable disposal solution.

The Broader Implications of Sharps Containers for Public Health

The Issue of Sharps Box Removal

In some hospitals, sharps boxes are removed from rooms of patients known or suspected to use substances. This practice, intended to prevent drug-seeking behavior or theft of medication vials, paradoxically increases the risk of needlestick injuries (NSI). Patients without access to sharps boxes may discard needles in bedsheets, regular waste bins, or transport used needles to another location, endangering themselves, other patients, healthcare workers, and cleaning staff.

Findings from Recent Studies

A recent study into harm reduction strategies for methamphetamine use in hospital settings revealed that removing sharps boxes from patient rooms increased the likelihood of needlestick injuries (NSI). Healthcare professionals reported that this practice led to unsafe needle disposal and heightened risk for staff and patients. Despite concerns about theft and misuse, internal analyses showed no instances of sharps boxes being used as weapons or projectiles over a five-year period.

The Need for Policy Change

Educational initiatives for healthcare professionals on substance use disorder, harm reduction, and safe needle disposal are crucial to changing practices and reducing stigma. Modern sharps containers are designed to prevent tampering and ensure safe disposal, making them essential for both patient and staff safety.

Designing Effective Sharps Containers

Criteria for Sharps Container Selection

Choosing the appropriate sharps container involves considering various factors, including the specific needs of the healthcare setting. Key criteria for selection include:

  1. Functionality: Containers should remain functional throughout their use.
  2. Accessibility: Containers must be easily accessible to those who use, maintain, or dispose of sharps.
  3. Visibility: Containers should be visible to ensure proper use.
  4. Accommodation: Designs should accommodate the needs of users and the facility.
Advances in Sharps Container Design

Reduced risk of injury has been associated with changes in sharps box design, including larger openings, incorporating passive overfill protection, and hand-entry prevention. Advanced engineered sharps containers have shown to significantly reduce sharps injuries in hospital settings. Implementing such designs, along with staff education, can greatly enhance safety.

Education and Training for Healthcare Staff

Education is a critical component of effective sharps management. Training healthcare professionals on the proper use and disposal of sharps, harm reduction principles, and the importance of maintaining sharps boxes in patient rooms can reduce the incidence of needlestick injuries (NSI) and improve overall safety. Enhanced education initiatives should also address stigma and misconceptions about substance use, fostering a more supportive environment for patients.

Conclusion

Sharps containers are a fundamental element of public health, protecting healthcare workers and the public from the dangers of needlestick injuries and bloodborne infections. MYCO Medical's OSHA-compliant sharps safety products, such as the QLICKSMART® BladeCASSETTE and BladeFLASK, offer reliable and user-friendly solutions to enhance safety in medical environments. By prioritizing proper sharps disposal and implementing comprehensive safety strategies, we can create safer healthcare settings for everyone.

Get Sharps Safety Medical Supplies from MYCO Medical

MYCO Medical is a certified diversity supplier by NMSDC. We provide top-notch medical devices and disposables to health systems across the United States and Canada. With a track record since 1993, we've assisted numerous hospitals and care centers in overcoming their supply chain hurdles and establishing a reliable source of premium medical supplies.

Our Sharps safety products are crafted with high quality materials to ensure optimal protection and comfort, reflecting our unwavering commitment to enhancing performance. Manufactured under stringent quality standards, all our products are made in ISO 13485-certified facilities that adhere to US FDA's good manufacturing practices.

Browse our wide selection of sharps safety equipment, including blade and needle removal systems, ampoule openers, and more, or contact our sales team today and receive a free complimentary sample and quote for our most popular products.

Browse All Sharps Safety Products from MYCO Medical

RESOURCES:

Forchuk, C., Silverman, M., Rudnick, A., Serrato, J., Schmitt, B., & Scott, L. (2023). The need for sharps boxes to be offered in the hospital setting for people who use substances: removing sharps boxes puts all of us at risk. Frontiers in Health Services, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/frhs.2023.1113163

Kasting, C., Martin, L. S., & Mullan, R. J. (1997). Sharps disposal containers: selection, evaluation, and use. Journal of the American Biological Safety Association, 2(4), 47-57. https://doi.org/10.1177/109135059700200410

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