Opening Sharps Containers

  1. Is it against OSHA standards to open used sharps containers? Where I work the needle count is closely watched, as it is a very high security job. A lost needle could be detrimental to all staff. To help deter this the DON has decided when a needle leaves the medication room, taken to the units and used, dropped into a small portable sharps container...then it is to be brought back to the med room, where at that time 2 nurses are to open the sharps, account for the used needles and then they are to be dropped into a large sharps container. To my co-workers and myself we feel this is dangerous as well as being against OSHA standards.
    Any one have any idea?

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    About MaxNurse

    Joined: Feb '00; Posts: 20; Likes: 3
    Correctional Nursing


  3. by   nocnurse12
    I agree with you, this is a ridiculous practice. The DON is violating many standards,putting your safety at great risk. I too, have worked in corrections and we counted needles at the beginning of the shift- with narcotics, and we carried individual sharps containers, at no time were they ever opened. I think you should talk with your administrator about your concerns, and if you get no satisfaction there, try contacting the regulators in your state. Your concerns are valid.
  4. by   monica f
    I agree that this practice is probably against OSHA standards. I can't believe that the hospital would put thier employees at risk just to save a few pennys. I'm sure that syringes at bulk are relatively inexpensive. I would have a hard time trying to save the hospital a few dollars in exchange for putting myself at risk for getting any number of diseases from the dirty needles.
  5. by   snickers
    We use a totally needle-less system at our really well, needle pokes have been virtually eliminated.

    What a blatant misuse of an R.N.' s time!!!!! ?Counting needles.. taking away from her time at the bedside..definitely a non nursing duty!
  6. by   Brian

    I would have to image that OSHA would be against this activity. I sure am! It sounds ridiculous. I also agree with snickers about a misuse of nurses time.

    Just curious...
    What type of a facility do you work at? What is the administration's rationale for counting the needles?
    Do they provide you equipment that makes this needle counting safe for you?

    Here is OSHAs webpage on Needlesticks if you want to look into this further:

    Good Luck!

    Brian Short
    WORLDWIDE NURSE: The Internet's Nursing Directory

    [This message has been edited by bshort (edited February 17, 2000).]
  7. by   Brian
    Here is a list of other websites that have information on needlesticks:

    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

    Here is their contact info:
    NIOSH--Publications Dissemination
    4676 Columbia Parkway
    Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998

    Telephone: 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674)
    Fax: 513-533-8573

    Brian Short
    WORLDWIDE NURSE: The Internet's Nursing Directory

  8. by   MaxNurse
    I work in corrections. We have to keep a careful account of all sharps due to if one is lost and an inmate finds it, the sharp could become a weapon to be used on either staff or other inmates.
    As I've told my DON i understand the rationale, but there has to be some kind of trust among the staff and there HAS to be another way of counting used sharps. Every time we are around an inmate there is an correctional officer with us, i suggested they sign with us on the drop sheet (since we drop used needles in front of an officer), but i was told it's not that we are worried about it being dropped but that the concern is a nurse will take it out and give it to an inmate behind an officer's back. I was offended by this answer! First of all I take my job seriously, and I can't believe a nurse would actually hand an inmate something that in turn, later be used on her as a weapon!! In a nut shell that was her rationale for counting once we return to the infirmary.

  9. by   Brian
    Why in the world would a nurse give a needle to an inmate??? Sounds like a weak rationale.

    I can understand the concern for the count in a prison, but there has to be a safer, more efficient way of doing it (without insulting the nursing staff) Good Luck
  10. by   Heather27
    I would be SO insulted!! I would also be VERY loathe to count dirty needles...that is just stupid to me. Just my humble opinion, as usual...
  11. by   Tara
    Would she consider allowing the nurses to use a needle counter( a magnetic plastic box that you put the needles in) and then allow you to dispose of them in the sharps once you returned.... I feel she has a valid concern but, probably could consider another less dangerous way.... Need to check out the needle counter like the ones they use in the OR to count needles.
  12. by   MaxNurse
    Tara, I've not heard of a needle counter. Thanks for the suggestion! I will pass this idea on to our DON for sure.
  13. by   MaxNurse
    I agree with all of is a dumb rationale, very insulting and loathsome. Thanks for all your input. I was beginning to wonder if I was missing something, like new OSHA standards, or just being crazy. I've mentioned my concerns to some of the RNs at work and they replied "Well we have to do it" I told them I wouldn't, and I was sure if someone was stuck with a dirty needle due to the "new" counting policy that comp would not pay for HIV/Hep testing, considering it was against what I thought to be OSHA standards.
    Thanks again!
  14. by   Sharon
    Weighing in as an occupational health nurse who has worked with law enforcement. You supervisor/DON is not only violating OSHA standards but is also demonstrating a reckless disregard for employee safety. If an employer and or supervisor is determined by the courts to be reckless then they have almost no defense under workers compensation act and they can be personally sued.

    What to do:

    1. Put your complaint in writing to the DON. Include a date that you would like a response by. It helps if you can provide one or two engineering control suggestions in your memo. An example of an engineering control is a self re-sheathing needle or needless system.

    2. If the procedure does not change then you should file a complaint with OSHA.

    Here is a "What if Scenario" to consider. You do not report the situation and a guard makes an anonymous complaint to the Board of Nursing or OSHA, citing an episode that occurred when you removed dirty needles from a sharp container. How do you intend to defend an unsafe practice with the Board of Nursing?