Should you provide Sharps Containers in the Workplace?
Provision of sharps containers for the safe disposal of syringes has been an issue for many years. Most Councils have had to address the issue, shopping centres are still debating it and many employers are not sure what to do. Providing sharps containers may be considered as condoning illicit drug use and would drug users actually place their syringes respoo=nsibl;y in the containers provided? Does providing containers create additional fear in workers that “bad things” are going on in toilets? If there are diabetics in the workplace then should they be provided with a clean, comfortable environment in which to administer their insulin injections?
Community Sharps Management Guidelines for NSW Councils
The Guidelines provide NSW councils and other stakeholders with information to assist them in identifying hazards and minimising risks associated with the inappropriate disposal of community sharps.
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Sharps in the Workplace
Qld Workplace Health and Safety definition of sharps:
‘Sharps’, refer to any object that can pierce or penetrate the skin easily. They include ice picks, broken glass and needles. Workers may be required to:
- dispose of needles that are found in toilets or carparks or
- clean up broken glass that has been contaminated with blood.
Their advice is excellent and includes:
Ways to control hazards
- Train staff in safe working practices to prevent skin penetrating injuries from sharps. For example, workers should be instructed not to manually compress garbage bags or place their hands into areas where their hands are not visible, such as into garbage bags or behind toilet cisterns.
- Develop procedures for the safe handling and disposal of sharps and instruct all workers accordingly.
- Provide a sharps disposal kit containing disposable gloves, appropriate tongs and a rigid-walled, puncture resistant sharps container.
- Install features that deter sharps concealment and encourage responsible sharps disposal, eg adequate lighting and provision of sharps containers.
- Keep a register of where sharps are located so that hot spots can be identified for further action.
- Undertake regular surveillance activities to ensure prompt detection and disposal of sharps.
- Provide appropriate personal protective equipment, eg sturdy gloves for garbage collection.
Employers should also provide information and training on:
- relevant infectious diseases, including how they are transmitted and their prevention
- infection control practices and procedures, including hand washing and personal hygiene
- correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- management of a blood of body fluid exposure and skin penetrating injury, including first aid, medical referral and access to counselling; and
- incident reporting, recording and investigation.
If a risk assessment indicates that workers have regular contact with blood and body fluids and/or discarded needles, hepatitis B vaccination may be required.
Case Studies From Community Sharp website
The City of Melbourne Syringe Management Plan 2004-2006
Local Government Association of Queensland : Building Safer Communities: Community Sharps Management – A Handbook for Local Government in Queensland
COMMUNITY SHARPS DISPOSAL OPTIONS IN NSW