Tracking injury data on campus has shown that recapping and removing needles from syringes are the most common causes of sharps injuries. Careful use and management of needles and other sharps are of primary importance to avoid injury. According to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, “needles must not be: bent, sheared, broken, recapped, removed from disposable syringes, or otherwise manipulated by hand before disposal when used with infectious or potentially infectious materials.”


Whenever possible, users should investigate alternative methods and equipment that will remove sharps from the procedure. A needle is only necessary if you must transfer materials through a septum, etc. or puncture the skin of an animal. If a needle is not necessary but syringe is required (e.g. syringe paired with a filter disk); then use a blunt end catheter or a dispenser tip to draw up your solution.

Safety Lock Systems

Safety lock systems, in which the needle is secured to the syringe (e.g. luer-lok and tru-lok), are used to prevent the needle from accidentally separating from the syringe. This mitigates the risk of leaks and aerosol formation when the syringe is under pressure.

Safety lock systems are highly recommended when transferring hazardous liquids and are required when working at BL-2.

Recapping Needles and General Handling

Needles should not be recapped before placing them in a sharps container for disposal. Recapping needles should be avoided to prevent accidental injury. However, there are circumstances where recapping or removing the needle from a syringe is unavoidable. If your work necessitates that you to recap needles or remove them from a syringe, never touch the needle with your hand or hold the cap in one hand while placing it over the needle.

If there is no viable alternative to recapping a needle or remove a needle or scalpel blade, it is required that you develop a plan for a safe procedure and incorporate this method in your lab-specific training.

Below are a few safer alternatives to recapping and removing sharps by hand:

  • Best- Use a recapping device (e.g. Point-Lok, NeedleSafeII, or a simple microfuge tube rack) to hold the cap and direct the needle into it with one hand, pressing firmly to recap the needle.
  • Better- Hold the cap with tongs, forceps, or pliers, and place it over the needle. This is also a good method for removing a needle from a reusable syringe and the best method for mounting and removing a disposable scalpel blade from its handle.
  • Acceptable- One-handed "scoop" technique:  Use the needle itself to pick up the cap, and then push the cap against a hard surface to ensure a tight fit onto the device.

Reusable Sharps

All sharps must be stored in a way that is not hazardous to the workers or visitors to the lab. Place reusable sharps like fixed needles and razor blades in secondary containment to prevent injuries. Sharps must not be stored loose on counters, protruding from counters, or in a location that creates a risk of accidentally cutting or puncturing your skin.

Reusable sharps (e.g., scissors, scalpels, suture needles) must be placed in appropriate containers as soon as possible after use. Appropriate containers must be leak-proof and puncture-resistant on the sides and bottom.

Employees must not reach into the container to retrieve contaminated sharps by hand. A mechanical means of removal must be used.

If the sharps are contaminated with infectious material, label the secondary container with the biohazard symbol. To avoid exposure to contaminants, reusable sharps should be decontaminated prior to cleaning, either by autoclave or an appropriate disinfectant.


Illinois state regulations prohibit disposal of potentially infectious medical waste, including used and unused needles and syringes, in the regular trash. All regulated sharps shall be disposed of in approved Sharps Disposal Containers (SDCs), which are provided free of charge to university personnel. SDCs are closable, puncture resistant, leak-proof on the sides and bottoms, and available in three sizes (1-quart, 2-gallon, or 8-gallon sharps disposal container). Please find more information on our Laboratory Sharps  waste page.

Items that have been contaminated with chemicals on the acutely toxic waste list should be collected in puncture-resistant containers with screw-top lids rather than SDCs.

Broken glass that is not potentially infectious or acutely toxic waste should be properly packaged and placed in the regular trash.

    Last Updated: 8/1/2019