Sharps Disposal Containers, Sharps Bins and Boxes
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)(2)(ii), requires that during use, containers for contaminated sharps must be: "[m]aintained upright throughout use. . ." The use of mechanisms to restrain sharps containers is one way of preventing spillage during use; however, the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard does not specify the use of restraining mechanisms for all situations of sharps container use. For example, if a workplace assessment reveals that sharps containers can be maintained in an upright position during use with no danger of being knocked over or spilled, or that the containers must remain unrestrained to accommodate mobility needs, or employees or patients might be endangered by fixed sharps containers (e.g., in a mental health or correctional facility), the use of restraining mechanisms would not be mandatory. The placement of sharps containers, as well as the measures used to maintain them in an upright position during use, must be based on the site-specific hazard assessment of the area of intended use.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH's) document,
Selecting, Evaluating, and Using Sharps Disposal Containers, makes recommendations on several important components of a site-specific hazard analysis in the selection of sharps containers. Among other things, NIOSH recommends that the employer consider: i) container transport or mobility needs; ii) clinician and procedural variability and movement; and iii) laboratory equipment variability and movement.1 If, after evaluating the work environment, an employer determines that restraining mechanisms are not required, but makes the decision to install them as an added measure to ensure the sharps containers are maintained upright, doing so should not, in itself, create an unsafe or unhealthful condition. [See 29 CFR 1910.1030(c); exposure control plan.]