Syringes and needles: use, disposal and incident follow-up

November 2011

Needles and syringes in the workplace may be contaminated with human blood and body fluid or other infectious material. Exposure to these contaminants through the piercing of skin or contact with already broken skin may pose a health risk for transmission of certain infections.

Heads of academic/administrative units or controlled entities and supervisory staff have a particular responsibility for ensuring that all persons who use or may come in contact with needles and syringes are aware of the specific hazards associated with these and how to minimise their risk of exposure. This involves communicating local requirements to staff and students under their control and ensuring that appropriate training is provided. The designated Biosafety officer can provide specific advice on local requirements.

The purpose of this information sheet is to provide guidance on the correct use and disposal of needles and syringes and action to be taken following a needlestick injury. This should be used as a starting point to assist with the implementation of appropriate risk control measures for the respective task(s).

Risk Management

Before you commence a task requiring the use of a syringe, ensure that: A risk assessment and safe work instruction has been completed for the task/activity and the required control measures have been implemented. Consideration of the following points may assist in this process:

  • appropriate training in correct handling and disposal of needles and syringes must be provided and records kept
ActivityRecommended Training
Undergraduate teaching involving the use of sterile needlesSupervised teaching
Safety information to be included in practical manuals
Collecting syringes/needles found in the workplace i.e Cleaning & Security staffSharps information session (provided by OHS Nurse consultants)
Animal work with non-infectious/infectious materialAnimal handling training (Provided by Monash Animal Research Platform)
Clinical placements with a potential for exposure to contaminated needlesPlacement induction
Supervision by qualified practitioners whilst performing task
Research projects involving the taking of blood (phlebotomy)Accredited phlebotomy course
  • appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the designated task is readily available
  • a sharps container is in close proximity enabling the immediate disposal of the connected syringe and needle
  • the sharps container is not full and there is sufficient space to accommodate the additional needles.

Correct disposal of syringes

  • Place the needle and syringe (still connected) into the sharps container.
  • Do not try to recap the needle.
  • Do not try to separate the needle and syringe before disposal.
  • Where syringe barrels are used without needles, place the used syringe, no matter what its contents, into a sharps container.
  • Full sharps containers are to be sent for disposal without delay via an EPA licensed waste disposal contractor.

Finding syringes and needles while you are working

If, as part of your work, you find a needle or syringe left lying around in your work area, then:

  • do not pick it up until you have leather gloves and a sharps container for safe transport
  • do not try to recap the needle
  • do not carry it from the area
  • do not take any action until you have informed your supervisor.

If you find a needle or syringe in a public area, then:

  • do not pick it up
  • secure the area contact Security on 333 and they will arrange for collection and disposal.

Needlestick injury management

  • Immediately wash the exposure area and follow first aid procedures.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor and Biosafety officer as soon as possible and ensure that the Occupational Health and Safety branch (OH&S) are notified without delay (ext 51014).
  • See a doctor as soon as possible.
  • If the needle and syringe contained human or animal blood or bodily fluids, discuss with the doctor the arrangements for blood tests, immunisation where appropriate and a follow-up plan.
  • If there is blood still in the syringe, and/or if the owner of the blood is known, advise your supervisor, Biosafety officer, OH&S and your doctor.
  • Complete a Monash University hazard and incident report (pdf 39kb) as soon as you are able.

For further information

For confidential medical advice, contact the Occupational Health Team

Advice on waste disposal can be obtained from your local biosafety officer, safety officer or OH&S consultant/adviser for your area.