Updated: Mar 10, 2022
To start, OSHA's Blood Borne Pathogens Standard 1910.1030 states that "immediately or as soon as possible after use, contaminated reusable sharps shall be placed in appropriate containers until properly reprocessed. These containers shall be
puncture-resistant, labeled, or color-coded in accordance with this standard, leakproof on the sides and bottom. Reusable sharps that are contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials shall not be stored or processed in a manner that requires employees to reach by hand into the containers where these sharps have been placed". However, before we get to storing and transporting contaminated surgical instrumentation, there are other key processes that we can implement to increase safety in the decontamination process.
Point of Use Cleaning
Removing gross contamination from instrumentation allows staff to visualize instruments better and reduces handling in the decontamination area. Lessening gross contamination at the point of use reduces the likelihood of the transmission of a pathogen if a staff member suffers a sharps injury.
Keeping Instruments Moist
Using a wetting agent during storage and transportation reduces cleaning time, which lessens the handling of instrumentation. Reducing the amount of time an instrument needs to be cleaned manually, with brushes or other devices lowers an instrument injury opportunity.
Instrument in Need of Repair
Broken instruments should be identified with a repair tag. Broken instruments can pose a greater risk to staff for injury. Tagging instruments for repair also helps to properly manage broken instruments not to end up back into a surgical trays.
Separation of Waste
This is my pet peeve; surgical trays should never be returned to the Central Sterile Processing Department (CSSD) with trash in them. The act of removing trash from surgical trays occludes the staff's vision of potential dangers in the surgical trays. Removing trash also increases the handling of the surgical tray, increasing the chance for a safety event in the decontamination area.
Lastly, going back to the OSHA 1910.1030 standard, proper transportation of surgical instruments protects the staff who are transporting them and protects the staff who are receiving them. Taking small steps in the proper management of contaminated surgical instruments increases safety in the decontamination process.
At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.