Handling Sharp Objects in Veterinary Medicine

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

To prevent injury and dangerous situations, veterinarians must handle sharp objects with the utmost care. Learn the safe way to handle sharp objects to avoid danger and explore how to properly cap a needle. Updated: 11/14/2021


One time, I worked with a veterinarian who was very much allergic to penicillin, a type of antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria). She had given a penicillin injection to an animal and then, while trying to put the cap back on the needle, ended up stabbing herself with the needle. There was enough penicillin that entered her bloodstream as a result of this that she had to go to the hospital.

And so, sharps, sharp objects found in a veterinary clinic, like needles and blades, must be handled very carefully. Sometimes it's because a drug reaction may occur. Other times, it's because you may stab yourself with a potentially dangerous microorganism. And in general, it's because getting stabbed or cut with a sharp object can cause physical pain and damage.

Let's take a look at the sharps you'll be coming across in veterinary medicine and how best to handle them in a safe manner so you don't end up going to the hospital.

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  • 0:02 Sharps
  • 0:59 Hazards & Safety
  • 3:09 Proper Needle Capping
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Sharps: Hazards and Safety

First things first: when handling any sharp objects, always keep them in their protective enclosure unless you need to use them right away. This means all needles should have their protective caps on, and disposable blades should be sheathed in their original packaging.

If at all possible, once you no longer need to use a sharp object, place it in a sharps container, a container specifically designed to hold and dispose of sharp objects. These are red in color, have a biohazard symbol on them and should be found in every clinic you work at.

You should not use things like milk jugs for a sharps container because needles can easily puncture these. This means they can hurt you or, if they fall onto the ground, someone else. Not only that, but also use of improper sharps containers is almost certainly illegal in your local jurisdiction.

Furthermore, when disposing of needles, do not cut off their ends and do not transfer sharps from a smaller container to a larger one. Doing either of these things increases the risk for physical damage to yourself, others and the potential for aerosolizing drugs and microorganisms. That's bad news because inhaling stuff like that is not good for your health.

Also, do not throw any sharp object into the regular trash. This is illegal and highly dangerous. Refuse workers and the general public are placed at great risk of physical, chemical and biological harm if you do this.

Never open up a used sharps container, and never stick your fingers into a sharps container for any reason. I've seen this happen; someone threw something into a sharps by mistake and tries to get it out. Bad idea! There are tons of sharp objects in there, might as well stick your hand in a bag full of venomous snakes instead!

And that also reminds me of one final thing I wanted to mention. Make sure sharps containers aren't overflowing with sharp objects as this increases the likelihood that you'll hurt yourself when putting something in there. Seal and dispose of the sharps container when it's full according to your clinic's policy.

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