HIV/AIDS Precautions - Needles and Sharps and Handling Contaminated Materials

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What precautions should be used when working with needles and sharps?

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Consider all needles and sharps as being infected. The user of the sharp should plan for its safe use and disposal.

  • Wear appropriate gloves when touching and or handling items that are visibly soiled with blood or bodily fluids. Gloves must be changed in between contact of individuals.
  • If there is potential for splashing, masks and eye protection must be worn.
  • Use puncture-resistant containers for disposal of sharps and needles.
  • Containers should have a max fill line, be leak proof, and closable.
  • Label containers with symbols or words – for example usage of the biohazard symbol or "CAUTION: WASTE SHARPS."
  • Clean and sterilize reusable syringes before reusing.
  • Place large bore reusable needles in puncture-proof containers.
  • Use clamps to remove lancet and scalpel blades from holders, not your fingers.
  • Do not recap, bend, break or remove needles by hand from disposable syringes or otherwise handle after use.

Please also see the OSH Answers document HIV/AIDS in the Workplace for more information.

How should decontamination and waste disposal be handled?

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  • Disinfect or sterilize medical devices or apparatus according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Clean instruments thoroughly before disinfecting with a germicide or medical grade disinfectant.
  • Incinerate or autoclave infectious waste before disposal.
  • Most Canadian jurisdictions have guidelines or regulations for the management of biomedical waste. Confirm what the requirements are for your jurisdiction.

How should blood/body fluid spills be cleaned?

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  • Remove visible material from patient care areas and decontaminate.
  • Remove blood or body fluids with absorbent paper towels. Dispose according to hospital policy.
  • Clean area and use medical grade disinfectant.

How should I handle laboratory specimens?

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  • Place collected blood and body fluid specimens in sterile containers. Securely close lid.
  • Clean the outside of the container with disinfectant if visibly contaminated.
  • Place container in a clear impervious plastic bag.
  • Label container "Blood and Body Fluid Precautions." Label requisition and attach to outside of bag.
  • Do not transport in a vacuum/pneumatic system.

How should patient care articles be handled?

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  • Use disposable patient care articles whenever possible.
  • Incinerate or dispose of disposable articles according to hospital policy.
  • Place articles soiled with blood in impervious bag. Label "Blood and Body Fluid Precautions."
  • Reprocess reusable items according to hospital policy.

  • Fact sheet last revised: 2017-03-01