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Safe Sharps Handling When Dispensing Investigational Products

Institutional biosafety committees (IBCs) frequently receive questions about the proper methodology for preparing a syringe for transport from a drug room or pharmacy to the clinic where the injection will be administered. This article explores tools and techniques to safely mitigate occupational exposure risks when preparing a syringe for transport to the clinic.

Sharps Precautions

A sharp is an instrument capable of puncturing, cutting, or scraping the skin, typically in the form of syringes, needles, or scalpel blades. Care must be taken to avoid sharps-related injuries and exposures. Injuries from sharps in a research or clinical setting are a serious problem for employees, as the CDC estimates almost 400,000 needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries occur to healthcare personnel each year. These injuries are often associated with occupational exposure to human bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Healthcare workers are frequently taught never to recap syringes after use. However, when preparing an investigational product (IP) in a drug room or pharmacy, you need to recap the syringe and transport it to the clinic for injection. There are two things to bear in mind when doing so:

  1. Do not simply recap a syringe or transport an uncapped syringe from one room to another
  2. A loaded syringe can be safely capped using either:
    • A safety engineered syringe
    • The one-handed scoop technique
    • A recapping tool
    • Tools or special sharp containers to remove the needle and replace with a fresh and already capped needle

Personnel must be familiar with the design and use of safety sharps in order to use them properly. The images below include examples of safety sharps and tools for safely recapping syringes.

If safety sharps are not available, use the one-handed scoop technique to slide a needle into a cap laying on a horizontal work surface. The main idea is to not hold the cap with your hand to avoid accidental needle sticks. Once the needle is in the cap, it can be safely secured with the free hand.

Another approach involves a recapping tool to hold the cap while recapping, rather than relying on one’s hand. Tools can also be utilized to remove the needle prior to replacing it with a fresh and already-capped needle.

All potentially infectious sharps must be disposed of in a biohazard sharps container immediately after use without recapping. Needles must not be bent or sheared.



Safety Syringes Second View

Safety-engineered Syringes


the one hand scoop technique


recapping tool
recapping tools

Recapping tools


Needle Uncapper, Recapper & Syringe Holder

Needle Uncapper, Recapper & Syringe Holder


Transport to the Clinic

Once loaded and capped, the syringe must be transported to the clinic in a sealed, leak-proof, and biohazard-labeled container. The container can be a rigid plastic container (e.g., Tupperware) or a designated IP transport container. The secondary container is intended to prevent IP spills if the syringe is either dropped or damaged and leaks.

The IBC’s Focus on Occupational Safety and Environmental Protection

The IBC’s role under National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines is to assess and mitigate risks in research involving engineered genetic materials. The IBC reviews the risks associated with the IP as well as the containment and safety practices for use of the IP at the research site in order to protect the research staff’s safety. The IBC also looks to protect the public health of the community around the site and the environment. Components of the IBC’s review include safety practices for use of the IP as well as incident response plans for handling spills, occupational exposures, or environmental releases.

If you’d like to discuss safety practices for performing research with engineered genetic materials at your site, contact us at IBC@advarra.com.

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