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Sharps Safety

A high degree of precaution must always be taken with any sharp items used in the laboratory, including needles, glass slides and cover slips, Pasteur pipettes, capillary tubes, and scalpels or other blades. Two of the most common causes of needle sticks are re-capping needles and improper disposal of needles. All needle sticks, and other sharps injuries, carry the risk of secondary infections as well as exposure to the needle's content and/or contamination on the outside of the needle or other sharp instrument.

Handling Procedures


See the Infectious Waste Disposal Chart at for a list of items to be disposed of as sharps and for additional sharps and broken glass disposal information.

  • Sharps containers may never be placed in the normal waste stream or used for any purpose other than sharps disposal.
  • Do not remove needles from syringes or re-cap needles before placing in sharps container.
  • Use leak-proof, puncture-resistant sharps containers properly labeled by the supplier.
  • Promptly dispose of all sharps in sharps container immediately after use.
  • Place sharps containers within easy reach of work stations where sharps are generated.
  • Never fill containers more than 3/4 full.
  • Use a size and shape container that will allow the sharp to freely and completely enter the container.
  • Close and seal the top of containers before placing next to regular trash for pick-up by custodians.
  • Custodians are trained to pick up sharps containers directly from labs. Do not place sharps containers in hallway or other public areas for pick up.

Spray and Aerosol Prevention

Sprays or aerosols may be generated if a needle disengages from a syringe. CDC/NIH guidelines in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories states, "Only needle-locking syringes or disposable syringe-needle units (i.e., needle is integral to the syringe) are used for injection or aspiration of infectious material."

Use needle-locking syringes for all needle/syringe applications to prevent exposure to sprays and aerosols. This includes injections, filtration, transfer of liquids, and loading columns. Use of needle-locking syringes will also prevent the loss of valuable samples. One cc syringes are now available with needle locks or permanently attached needles.

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