Sharps management and the disposal of clinical waste

Br J Nurs. 2009;18(14):860, 862-4. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2009.18.14.43353.


Dangerous errors in clinical waste management continue to occur and inappropriate items find their way into clinical waste sacks that are not designed to hold sharp or heavy items, or fluids. Although great attention is given to the safe use of sharps, needles still find their way into waste sacks instead of a sharps bin. Sharps injuries among ancillary and support staff, and waste handlers working in the disposal sector, can occur at a rate greater than for health-care staff. Blood and body fluid exposures from carelessly packaged clinical waste are similarly common, with almost 100% of waste handlers having blood splashes on their clothing within four hours of starting a shift. Blood splashes are also common on the outside surfaces of sharps bins and on the frames supporting clinical waste sacks. Using forensic techniques, blood residues invisible to the naked eye can be detected on all surfaces of most sharps bins and on the bench top, walls and floor where the bins were positioned. Care is required when disposing of clinical waste, to protect and maintain the immediate environment from contamination, and to ensure the safety of those who come into contact with waste as it passes along the disposal chain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Borne Pathogens*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Medical Waste Disposal / methods*
  • Needles
  • Needlestick Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Protective Devices


  • Medical Waste Disposal