Medical Waste Disposal

OSHA Weighs in on Blood Collection Tubes and Recycling

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees practices and policies that could be hazardous to the physical well-being of workers in any field. With health care workers, one of their primary concerns is with the safe handling of sharps. Needle pricks may be small cuts to the skin, but the potential to introduce disease into a worker makes them a high risk to work with.

Not only has OSHA addressed the risk potential of sharps by demanding the use of special containers for their collection, they have furthered their cause by making recommendations for the use of tube holders. These devices are typically attached to the needle in order to facilitate the collection of blood when it is being drawn. In the past, some hospitals and other medical labs have attempted to reuse these tube holders to cut costs, yet to do so is putting the health of workers at risk.

Blood Collection Needles and Tube Holders

A blood collection needle is able to screw onto a blood tube holder, and a blood tube is inserted into the holder to collect the blood. The needle has two ends, one which is inserted into the laboratory patient, and one at the back the transports the blood into the blood tube. Modern blood tube holders can be reused, but are not in most circumstances in order to minimize a worker’s exposure to blood. The process of removing the tube holder from the needle increases the possibility that the health care provider will be injured by a needle stick.

Proper medical waste disposal for laboratories does not allow for the removal of tube holders before placing the needle inside of the sharps collection bin. OSHA specifically recommends that needles be disposed of immediately after use, including any blood tube holder that is attached to it. Removing this holder places worker’s at too high of a risk for possible injury and exposure to harmful blood pathogens.

There are very limited circumstances for when a contaminated needle or other sharp is allowed to be manipulated after its use. To do so, you will have to show that the action is required in order to complete a specific medical or dental procedure. Trying to save money on your laboratory costs by reusing parts of contaminated needles and collection devices is in violation of the standards set forth by OSHA.

According to OSHA, the appropriate disposal of contaminated sharps includes:

  • The close availability of sharp containers that contain an opening large enough to pass the entire blood collection assembly, including the blood tube holder.
  • Having sharp containers made portable for those employees who move between various patient rooms.

If you have your own questions or concerns about medical waste disposal in your laboratory, and how to handle sharps, MedWaste Management can help. With our expert methods, you will have no problem in meeting the demands of OSHA when it comes to medical waste disposal inside of your laboratory.

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