Dealing with Hazardous Materials -
It is essential, that you firstly conduct an assessment of the risks associated with each particular type of incident, in this case Hypodermic Syringes. (Details of how to do this are provided in the Jangro Guide to Health and Safety).
Once an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out, you can set about adopting the correct procedures for dealing with the disposal of the hazardous waste in question. The way in which I have approached this subject is by producing the following case study, which outlines a common problem and then take you through the process of dealing with it.
Please bear in mind this is a generic method statement and it is the responsibility of the reader to ensure they carry their own assessment to insure that the procedures listed are appropriate for their own site and set of circumstances
Case Study: Disposing of Discarded Hypodermic Syringes
Jean is employed as a cleaner in a public convenience that is known to be frequented by drug users. When carrying out her routine cleaning duties, she comes across a toilet cubicle which has been used by drug users. In it she finds two hypodermic syringes, one of which is obviously contaminated with blood; the other appears to be clean.
What should she do?
Luckily, Jean is trained to deal with this situation effectively. Let's see what she does in the order she does it. She decides that although there is no obvious sign
of blood on one of the syringes, it must still be approached with extreme caution and dealt with in line with the "Sharps" disposal procedure she has been trained in. Firstly, she places an "Out of Order" sign on the cubicle door to restrict access to the area and goes to her cleaning cupboard for the equipment she needs.
This consists of the following:
- A "sharps" disposal carton.
- Plastic tweezers
- Clean white tissue
- Antiseptic spray
- Antiseptic wipes
- Yellow biohazard waste bag
- Disposable apron
- Disposable gloves
This is the procedure she follows:
- 1. Before entering the area she puts on the disposable apron and the gloves.
- 2. She then places warning signs at the entrance of the cubicle to warn users of the toilet that she is working.
- 3. She places all of her equipment within easy reach within the work area, making sure that none of it comes into contact with the contaminated items.
- 4. Jean opens the lid of the disposal carton and places it on the floor next to the first syringe.
- 5. She takes the tweezers and manoeuvres the syringe into a position where she can grasp it firmly by the body (not by the needle end!)
- 6. Making sure that she has a firm grip on the syringe; she carefully places it into the carton, taking care to place it in needle first.
- 7. Once she has done this, she repeats the process for the second syringe.
- 8. When she is sure that the syringes have been deposited completely inside the carton, she places the tweezers inside and closes the lid, making sure that it is sealed properly and places it to one side.
- 9. She sprays the infected area with the antiseptic solution and wipes with the clean
- 10. 0nce all of the potentially infected area has been disinfected, she places the used tissue in the biohazard waste bag.
- 11. She then removes her gloves and apron and places them in the biohazard waste bag.
- 12. To finish, she wipes her hands with an antiseptic wipe and places it in the biohazard waste bag.
- 13. She seals the bag and places it in the designated waste area.
- 14. She takes the sharps disposal carton and arranges for disposal in line with the companies policy.
- 15. She returns to the cubicle and cleans it thoroughly as normal.
- 16. She removes the warning sign, returns all equipment to the store and reopens the toilet.
- 17. She then reports the incident to her manager.
It sounds like a lengthy procedure, but each step has been carefully considered following a risk assessment by her manager, to ensure that the risk of injury and infection is reduced to an absolute minimum.
The manager in question would need to take into account that the public convenience in question is known to be frequented by drug users and reflect this in his/her risk assessment. It should be noted that all operatives should only tackle the disposal of hypodermic syringes in small quantities.
Risk assessments should reflect this and make specific recommendations as to what action should be taken to deal with instances involving large quantities.
It is usual in these circumstances to recommend that the issue be reported to the local Environmental Health Office, who should be able to deal with it effectively using specialist equipment and personnel.
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