Safety in healthcare and laboratory settings is of paramount importance, not only for patients but also for clinicians and researchers.
One aspect of safety that often goes unnoticed but is critically important is the proper disposal of medical sharps, such as needles and scalpels. To address this concern, the Australian Standard AS 23907:2023 has been introduced, setting new guidelines for sharps container compliance to reduce sharps injuries.
This article explores the key aspects of AS 23907:2023 and why it is essential for healthcare and research facilities to ensure their sharps containers are compliant with this new standard.
The Importance of Sharps Containers
Sharps containers are specially designed containers used to safely collect used medical sharps for disposal. These containers play a crucial role in preventing accidental needlestick injuries and the transmission of bloodborne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Proper disposal of biohazardous sharps not only protects staff but also the environment.
The New Australian Standard AS 23907:2023 was published in July 2023 introduces new key design and performance requirements of sharps containers in addition to the test methods for strength, stability and resistance to penetration. Let’s delve into some of the new design requirements of AS 23907:2023.
Labelling and Colour Coding
AS 23907:2023 mandates clear and standardized labelling and colour coding for sharps containers. This is crucial for easy identification and segregation of different waste streams in healthcare settings. Crucially, the new colour coding requirements of AS 23907:2023 specifically enable the use of recycled polymer in container manufacture, dramatically reducing the amount of virgin polymer being imported.
The standard deliberately emphasizes the importance of safety features in sharps containers. These features include being equipped with a temporary and permanent closure that is integrally attached and allows for one-handed operation. In addition, the resistance to penetration requirements have also been increased to 20N of force. These safety features are designed to minimize the risk of needlestick injuries during use and disposal.
Why AS 23907:2023 matters to healthcare and research facilities.
The requirements of the new standard are designed to reduce the risk of needlestick injuries, which can have serious health consequences for healthcare workers and research staff. By using compliant sharps containers, healthcare and laboratory facilities can help protect their staff from accidental sharps injuries.
Proper disposal of medical sharps not only protects healthcare workers but also patients. Non-compliant sharps containers may lead to contamination and the potential transmission of bloodborne diseases, putting patients at risk.
Reputation and Trust
Adhering to safety standards not only ensures legal compliance but also builds trust among patients and the community. Patients are more likely to trust healthcare facilities that prioritize their safety and well-being.
AS 23907:2023 introduces a new and very keen focus on the potential effects of medical waste on the environment. The new standard states, “The materials used in construction should minimise harmful impacts to the environment during manufacture, distribution, use, and ultimate disposal.” Allowing the use of recycled polymer will positively contribute to reducing the amount of virgin polymer entering the waste stream.
Steps to Ensure Compliance
To ensure that your healthcare facility’s sharps containers conform to AS 23907:2023, consider the following steps:
- Audit Your Current Containers: Assess your existing sharps containers to determine if they meet the design, labelling, and safety requirements outlined in AS 23907:2023.
- Update Your Inventory: Replace non-compliant containers with those that meet the new standard’s specifications. Ensure that all containers are properly labelled, and colour coded.
- Train Staff: Educate healthcare workers on the importance of compliant sharps containers and how to use them correctly.
- Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any updates or revisions to AS 23907:2023 to ensure ongoing compliance.
The new Australian Standard AS 23907:2023 sets a higher bar for sharps container compliance in healthcare settings. Adhering to these standards not only ensures the safety of healthcare workers and patients but also demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility. Healthcare facilities should take proactive steps to ensure their sharps containers meet the requirements outlined in AS 23907:2023 to protect both their staff and their reputation. In doing so, they contribute to a safer and healthier healthcare environment for all.