Safe Sharps Handling

Injuries from needles and other sharp implements are common in veterinary medicine but are largely preventable. Serious outcomes can result following needlestick or other sharps injuries, including significant trauma, secondary infection and drug reaction (i.e. toxic, allergic, idiosyncratic). Proper sharps handling practices are essential in reducing workplace injuries. Use appropriate barriers (e.g. closed-toed shoes) and safe work practices when using sharp instruments and devices, after procedures, and when cleaning used instruments.

  • Never remove needle caps by mouth.
  • Do not bend or manipulate needles in any way.
  • Do not pass uncapped needles to another person.
  • Ensure proper animal restraint is in place to reduce inadvertent needlestick injuries from animal movement.
  • Do not recap needles by hand. If recapping is required, use the “one-handed scoop” technique (see below), forceps or a needle cap holder.
  • Ensure that approved point-of-use sharps disposal containers are located everywhere needles are handled. These containers are puncture-resistant, leakproof, and prevent removal (both accidental and intentional) of discarded sharps.
  • Always dispose of sharps immediately in an approved sharps disposal container.
  • Never dispose of needles or other sharps into anything other than an approved sharps container, even if they are capped or otherwise contained. This reduces the risk of accidental injury to veterinary personnel, patients, clients and non-veterinary personnel (e.g. waste disposal personnel).
 
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The most important precaution for preventing needlestick injuries is to avoid recapping needles. Recapping needles causes more injuries than it prevents.


When it is absolutely necessary to recap needles as part of a medical procedure or protocol:

  • Use a mechanical device such as forceps or hemostats to replace the cap on the needle.
  • Alternatively, the needle can be recapped using the “one-handed scoop" technique:
    • Place the cap on a flat horizontal surface.
    • Holding the syringe with the attached needle, or the needle hub alone (when unattached), scoop up the cap with the needle by sliding the needle tip inside, without touching the cap with one’s other hand.
    • Once the point of the needle is covered, tighten the cap by pushing it against an object, or by pulling the base of the needle cap onto the hub of the needle with the same hand holding the syringe. After injecting live vaccines or aspirating body fluids or tissue, the used syringe should be placed in a sharps container with the needle attached. Following most other veterinary procedures, the needle and syringe may be separated for disposal of the needle in the sharps container. This is most safely accomplished by using the needle removal device on an approved sharps container, which allows the needle to drop directly into the container without being handled or touched.
  • Used sharps are considered biomedical waste in Animal Centres. Dispose of used sharps containers in accordance with regulations from municipal and/or provincial/territorial authorities.