Working with Sharps

Working with Sharps 


The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 Prior to the publication of European Directive 2010/32/EU, a framework agreement was developed that brought together a number of existing health and safety requirements in order to make the legal framework to protect workers from sharps injuries more explicit. The UK went down the legislative route, and The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 came into force on the 11th May 2013.


The regulations apply to employers whose primary activity is to organise, manage and provide treatment to others that involve the use of sharps. Those covered under the act include not only those that undertake the procedure but all others that may come into contact with any sharps, which will include all employees, servicemen and cleaners.

The main requirements of the regulations mean Employers need to assess the risk of sharps injuries under the COSHH regulations. Where risks are identified, the regulations require the employer to take specific risk control measures detailed below:


  • where the employer has identified a risk, steps must be taken to avoid the unnecessary use of sharps (Regulation 5 (1)(a))
  • where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the use of medical sharps, the sharps regulations require employers to: –
  • use safe sharps (incorporating protection mechanisms) where it is reasonably practicable to do so (Regulation 5(1) (b)) –
  • prevent the recapping of needles (Regulation 5 (1) (c))
  • – place secure containers and instructions for safe disposal of medical sharps close to the work area (Regulation 5 (1) (d)
  • Provide information to employees on the risks from injuries, relevant legal duties of employers and employees; good practice in preventing injuries; the benefits and drawbacks of vaccination and the support available to an injured person from their employer.
  • Provide appropriate training to ensure employees know how to work safely. The training must cover the correct use of safe sharps, safe use and disposal of sharps, what to do in the event of an injury and the employer’s arrangements for health surveillance. (Regulation 6 (4))
  • Have arrangements in place in the event of an injury, which includes keeping a record of the incident, investigation of the circumstances of an incident and to take action to prevent a reoccurrence. The HSE advise that records of the incident should include details of the type of sharp involved, at what stage of the procedure the incident occurred and the severity of the injury.
  • ensure that injured employees who may have been exposed to a blood-borne virus have immediate access to medical advice; are offered post-exposure prophylaxis or other treatment as advised by a doctor, and offered counselling where appropriate. (Regulation 7 (2))
  • Review, at suitable periods, the effectiveness of procedures and control measures (Regulation 5 (2)).


Work practice controls 


These controls aim to change the behaviour of workers to reduce exposure to occupational hazards. Examples include:


  • no needle recapping or re-sheathing
  • safe construction of sharps containers
  • placing sharps containers at eye level and within arm’s reach
  • disposing of sharps immediately after use in designated sharps containers
  • sealing and discarding sharps containers when they are three-quarters full
  • establishing means for the safe handling and disposal of sharps devices before the beginning of a procedure.
  • Safe storage of full sharps containers, which should be stored in a safe place and carried away from the body with the lid firmly closed.



The Environmental Protection Act 1990


Under this act, anyone that disposes of waste has a duty of care to ensure that waste is disposed of safely.

Subjects covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are as follows:


  • Waste management
  • Noise pollution
  • Neighbourhood pollution
  • Radioactive substances
  • Genetically Modified organisms
  • Nature Conservation


Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is unlawful to deposit, recover or dispose of controlled (including clinical) waste without a waste management licence, contrary to the conditions of a licence or the terms of an exemption, or in a way which causes pollution of the environment or harm to human health. Contravention of waste controls is a criminal offence. Section 34 of the act places people concerned with controlled (including clinical) waste under a duty of care to ensure that the waste is managed properly, recovered or disposed of safely and is only transferred to someone who is authorised to keep it. Householders are exempt for their own household waste.


Hazardous healthcare waste is subject to the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005[Extract is taken from Gov.UK website 30th June 2014]


All commercial businesses must have a waste removal contract with either the council or a private waste removal company. If you produce less than one bin bag full of clinical waste per collection, then you can dispose of clinical waste such as cotton wool and tissues in with a normal waste collection. If you produce more than this per collection, then a suitable clinical waste contract must be obtained.


Sharps Disposal 


Anything sharp that could pierce or has pierced skin should be put into the correct category of sharps disposal. We can give you a hand if you’re not sure what kind of sharps disposal you need. Any of the below should be disposed of in a sharps bin:

  • Needles
  • Scalpels
  • Stitch cutters
  • Glass ampoules
  • Sharp instruments
  • Shards of bone and teeth
  • Syringes
  • Lancets
  • Razor blades

Your Sharps waste needs to be disposed of in a dedicated sharps bin of a suitable size which we will provide you with as part of your contract. From there, it is incinerated.

If you’re producing hazardous waste, you have a duty of care to ensure that it’s housed and disposed of in the most appropriate way.


You will need to employ the services of a specialist waste disposal company that will safely remove your sharps boxes when full, along with any other hazardous waste.