Today I was asked how many sharps containers are needed to be in compliance with regulations. My answer was simple, but not well received – “as many as you need.” Let me explain further. CalOSHA 5193 and Fed OSHA 1910.1030 govern bloodborne pathogens which ultimately deals with sharps containers. Neither regulation spells out a ratio of the number of disposal containers that you need. Rather, simply put, you need enough containers to serve your population and the job functions which use them. Not to mention they should be large enough to accommodate the largest sharp that you will place in the container. Pretty straight forward I would think. But let’s see if I can help a little more.
Who uses sharps?
For most schools and business not in health care, most people who will use sharps on a routine basis are persons with diabetes requiring insulin injections. The majority of the population does not use sharps and unless you are in the healthcare industry, there won’t be a big use of sharps in your facilities.
How many people use insulin?
About 25 million Americans are diabetic which translates to about 8.3 percent. However, of those 25 million, 7 million are undiagnoised, which means that about 6.5 percent of the population know about their diabetes. Of the 18 million who do know, about 14 percent use insulin – injection, pump or otherwise. What’s all this translate to – just under 1 percent of the population (0.91) may inject insulin.
How many disposal containers do I need?
Take your population and elementary school for example with 400 kids and 25 staff. 425 persons x 1% = 4.25 people may be diabetic and use insulin. Two or three sharps disposal units should be plenty, but to be on the safe side, I would recommend one per bathroom.
Do I really need sharps containers?
Besides the fact that they are governed by CalOSHA 5193 and Fed OSHA 1910.1030, they also protect people from being stuck by the sharp. I once had a case where a nurse didn’t have a sharps container and used an open coffee can instead. A student came into see the nurse and thought there was candy in the jar, stuck his hand in and got stuck by the exposed needle tip. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. Yes, get your sharps container today.