Sharps include all objects that can penetrate the skin, such as:

  • scissors
  • scalpels
  • needles
  • razor blades
  • cryostat/microtome knives
  • microscope slides and coverslips
  • pasteur pipettes
  • pipette tips
  • glass/broken glass contaminated with biological material
  • capillary or hematocrit tubes

Safe Handling

  • Use forceps or a specifically designed blade remover device; never remove scalpel blades from the handle using your fingers.
  • Never attempt to break or bend needles.
  • Restrain animals prior to giving any injection.
  • Never leave sharps on the lab bench; place it in a clean conical tube if you need to set it down.
  • Substitute retractable blades for razor blades whenever possible. Do not leave exposed blades in the lab.
  • Do not pass exposed sharps directly to another researcher. Give a verbal announcement and place it in a rigid container or transfer tray. Let them pick it up themselves.
  • Avoid direct contact with broken glass by using tongs or a dustpan to clean it up.
  • Use luer-lock syringes to keep needles secure during use.
  • Substitute glass with mylar-wrapped glass or plastic whenever possible
  • Perform an annual review of your lab's need to use sharps. Is it possible to modify a procedure so sharps are not needed?

Re-capping Needles

DO NOT RE-CAP NEEDLES! Re-capping needles is not a safe practice, and is discouraged at UVM. It is not necessary to re-cap needles prior to disposal; simply discard them in the sharps container immediately after use.

If you absolutely must re-cap during a procedure, there are a couple of safer ways to do so.

  • Use a specifically designed re-capping device
  • Use the One-hand Method
    • First place cap on a level horizontal surface; gently slide needle half-way into cap
    • Then, slowly tip up needle end of the device and allow cap to slide over needle
    • Finally, use the thumb of the hoand holding the device to secure the cap on the syringe.
    • Never use two hands to recap. Chance of stabbing yourself increases!

Proper Sharps Disposal

Labs can purchase sharps containers in several sizes through UVM Chemsource.

Sharps containers must be:

  • puncture-proof
  • leak-proof
  • sealable
  • properly labeled with the universal biohazard symbol

Keep a sharps container within arms reach during procedures, for prompt disposal of used sharps.

All needles and blades should be discarded into the sharps container, whether they are contaminated or not.

Never overfill a sharps container. Trying to force one last sharp into a full container greatly increases the risk of needlestick injury. Leave 1-2 inches of headspace in the container so no one gets stuck when pressing down to tighten and seal the lid.

Never dispose of sharps: into the regular trash, with animal carcasses, or directly into biowaste bags or boxes.

Broken glass, microscope slides, cover slips, and other sharp items contaminated with biological material (fixed or not) should ONLY be collected in biohazard sharps containers, and should NOT go into the broken glass box or the uncontaminated lab waste box. Uncontaminated glass items can be disposed of in the uncontaminated lab waste box.

When the sharps container is 3/4 full, seal the top and place it in a biowaste box for disposal. For labs that do not use a biowaste box, please email to have the container picked up.

Reusable Sharps

Reusable tools, such as scissors and scalpels should be decontaminated in a rigid, puncture- proof container. If sharps need to be scrubbed, reduce the risk of injury by using a long-handled brush (a lab-dedicated toothbrush may work well).

Consider Safer Sharps Devices

Sharps with safety devices reduce the risk of needlestick, and should be considered whenever possible. Many kinds of safer sharps devices are available.