Sharps are defined in the “National Guidelines for the Management of Clinical and related Wastes” (published by the National Health and Medical Research Council) as:
“Objects or devices having acute rigid corners, edges points or protuberances capable of cutting or penetrating the skin”.
Hypodermic needles, pasteur pipettes, scalpel blades, lancets and broken glass all fit this definition.
All sharps have the potential to cause injury through cuts or puncture wounds. Sharps can cause accidental injections and cuts when improperly handled. In addition, many sharps are contaminated with blood or body fluids, microbiological materials, toxic chemicals or radioactive substances, posing a risk of infection or illness if they penetrate the skin. Blood contaminated sharps can spread viruses such as those causing Hepatitis B, C and HIV.