Safe Disposal of Medical Sharps Act
The enactment of Sharps disposal Act was the biggest milestone in the field of nursing (Chartier, 2014). The bill provides a framework for proper management of sharps used in hospitals to administer medications. It also delegates the role of disposal of sharps to the manufacturers following concerns of harmful effects that have resulted from poor their management after use. This bill will improve sharps disposal and minimize the risks of injuries to the general public that are due to the poor handling of these medical waste products.
Current Bill Text and History
This bill defines medical sharps as needles, lancets, and any other devices used to penetrate the skin so as to deliver medication. This bill provides a framework for proper management of sharps used in hospitals to administer medications. The bill begins by defining the meaning of terms as used in its context, laying the foundations for its starting. A manufacturer is defined as a person or entity either physically present in the USA who imports or manufactures medical sharps. He/ she may also be any person who sells these products in bulk even in cases where he/ she does not have the legal ownership of the product. Further, it defines a program as an activity or a plan established by the manufacturer or jointly with other manufacturers for the purpose of collecting, handling, transporting, treating, and disposing of unwanted medical sharps.
This bill makes important highlights for safe disposal of medical sharps. It begins by stating that an individual is not allowed to mix medical sharp with solid waste to prevent them from being disposed of in the same facility. Secondly, the bill dictates that a manufacturer is under an obligation to participate in a program, either individually or jointly with other manufacturers, for collection, transportation, treatment, and proper disposal of unnecessary medical sharps which are generated by residential sources. Thirdly, it says that a manufacturer should submit a plan to the department of health outlining its participation in such a program through a stewardship organization. Simply, a stewardship organization is a non-profit organization, a corporation, or a legal entity that is contracted or created by the manufacturer to implement a medical sharps program. In addition, a manufacturer must submit a plan to operate or join an existing program before initiating the sale of medical sharps in commonwealth nations.
Further, manufacturers or a steward organizations are expected to begin a program plan within 90 days after it has been approved or by July 1, depending on which date comes earlier. Moreover, these firms are required to update their programs plan after every four years. The updated plan should be submitted to the department for review and approval. The bill also provides that a manufacturer or stewardship organization should cater for all administrative and operational costs that are associated with the implementation of the program. These are the costs incurred in the collection, transportation, and disposal of the unwanted sharps. Further, the law provides that all administrative costs and oversight costs incurred by the department in implementation or evaluation of a program should be paid by the manufacturers or the steward organizations. This amount should be paid annually or as determined by the department. Lastly, a manufacturer or steward organization is not allowed to charge a fee in collection centers for the management of used medical sharps.
Sponsors and Co-Sponsors of the Bill
The Safe Disposal of Medical Sharps Act was sponsored by Kay Khan. The co-sponsors were John P. Fresolo, Benjamin Swan, Timothy J. Toomey, Barbara A. L’Italien, David B. Sullivan, and Brian P. Wallace.
Background Information About the Bill
The background of the formation of the bill was informed by the adverse effects that resulted from poor disposal of sharps. According to the proponents of the bill, the nature of sharps management and disposal was dangerous and life threatening. The cases of injuries due to the poor disposal of needles that were reported to have occurred outside the hospital settings were considered unacceptably high (Mathur, Dwivedi, Hassan, & Misra, 2011). Therefore, there was a need to have a more controlled environment with strict procedures for handling and managing sharps wastes.
Implications for or Against the Bill
To begin with, the number of people that will be at risk of infection due to the poor disposal of syringes and other sharps will be reduced. The number of medical practitioners exposed to the risk of infections due to the poor disposal of wastes will also reduce. Further, the spread of ‘blood-borne’ diseases will decrease by significant levels in hospitals. Arguably, the reduction in the spread of HIV due to sharing of needles will be the biggest achievement of the act (Perry, Jagger, Parker, Phillips, & Gomaa, 2012).
Nurses Support of the Bill
Since sharps are bio-hazardous materials, it is obvious that injuries that result from them pose a significant threat to public health. Poorly disposed sharps can penetrate the skin making it possible for the victim to get infections from ‘blood-borne’ pathogens. Consequently, the spread of these pathogens is directly linked with the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Every health care professional should be supportive of the legislation of this bill since they are the most exposed to the risk of transmission of these diseases whenever they handle sharps waste. Since the aforementioned diseases do not have a known treatment plan, the improper disposal of wastes puts the lives of the nurse at risk. The disastrous effects of injuries caused by sharps make it clear as to why nurses should be supportive of the act. In addition, the professional qualification of a nurse requires them to be mindful of the general public through preventive mechanisms. The general public is exposed to risks due to the poor disposal of these materials. For example, in the event the hazardous materials are not separated from ordinary wastes, people can unknowingly come into contact with them. Some people may reuse or misuse sharps. In the case of such an eventuality, the responsibilities of nursing in infection prevention will have failed. Therefore, this act is important to the nursing profession.
In conclusion, the act, if finally passed, will offload the burden of disposing sharps from hospital managements to manufacturers. This passing on of responsibilities will improve sharps disposal management, reduce the harmful effects of their poor management on the general public, as well as lower the risks of injuries among nursing professionals. In light of this, the legislature should approve this bill in order to protect local communities from the dangers caused by poor management of biological wastes.
Chartier, Y. (Ed.). (2014). Safe management of wastes from health-care activities. World Health Organization.
Mathur, V., Dwivedi, S., Hassan, M. A., & Misra, R. P. (2011). Knowledge, attitude, and practices about biomedical waste management among healthcare personnel: A cross-sectional study. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 36(2), 143.
Perry, J., Jagger, J., Parker, G., Phillips, E. K., & Gomaa, A. (2012). Disposal of sharps medical waste in the United States: Impact of recommendations and regulations, 1987-2007. American journal of infection control, 40(4), 354-358.