Proper Disposal of Syringes and Other Sharps
What Every Resident Needs to Know
A Massachusetts restaurant worker assigned to bathroom duty was emptying the trash in the ladies restroom. While tying up a trash bag, wearing standard sanitation gloves, the worker suddenly felt a prick — a syringe had poked through the bag and stuck the worker’s hand. The supervisor on duty told the worker to go to the local emergency department, where the worker was evaluated for risk of possible infection from the needlestick.
Needlestick injuries like this are not isolated incidents in Massachusetts. Around 3,000 needlesticks and other sharps injuries occur every year among hospital workers . The risk also exists for those in non-healthcare settings. The issue has always been a significant concern for workers in the solid waste industry , who collect, transport and sort waste from home or public settings. And according to the Department of Labor Standards (DLS), employees of public works and recreation and conservation departments can face finding improperly discarded sharps at an alarming rate.
In Massachusetts, an estimated 2 million used needles are generated each week due to chronic disease and other medical conditions. In an effort to help reduce injuries and the spread of disease, the Pharmacy Access Law permits over-the-counter sales of sterile hypodermic syringes and needles to those over 18. In addition, to help ensure the safe and secure collection and proper disposal of sharps devices, a statewide ban on the disposal of needles, syringes and lancets in household trash went into effect on July 1, 2012. Many cities and towns have initiated programs to increase access to safe, sharps disposal sites.
Listed below is information that everyone should know about the proper disposal of sharps in Massachusetts.
Protect yourself, your community, and workers across the Commonwealth:
- DO NOT throw sharps in public or household trash or recycling bins.
- DO put syringes in sharps containers immediately after use.
- KNOW the location of your nearest Syringe and Needle Disposal Sites by contacting your local board of health or DPH, who maintain a list of communities with sharps disposal programs on their website.
- KNOW about Massachusetts Needle Exchange Programs (NEPs).
Keep workers safe who may be exposed to discarded sharps:
- PROVIDE workers with tools to avoid hand contact, including puncture-resistant gloves and sharps disposal containers.
- PROVIDE needles with engineered sharps injury protections to those workers who use needles in delivering care to others, as required by DPH, DLS, and OSHA regulations.
- TRAIN workers initially and annually in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).
- OFFER the Hepatitis-B vaccine to workers hired for jobs with risk of sharps injury or blood exposure.
- VIEW the Labor Standards presentation file size 4MB on employer and municipality requirements for non-hospital employees who may be exposed to sharps injuries.
- HAVE policies and procedures in place to inform employees of necessary actions if a needlestick does occur.
Learn how to protect yourself on the job from needlesticks and other sharps injuries:
Putting this information to use will help to protect all Massachusetts residents and workers from needlesticks and other sharps injuries.