SAFETYmatters - Safe Needle Handling

During a recent site visit from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International representatives, the site visit team observed re-capped needles in sharps containers throughout the animal facilities and research laboratories.  EHS online training and the University of Iowa biosafety manual state that needles should not be recapped, bent, removed or manipulated by hand.  Recapping needles can result in accidental needlesticks and exposure to the material in the syringe.  However, if it is essential that a needle be recapped due to the nature of the work, it must be done using a mechanical device or the one-handed scoop method, as follows:

  1. Place the cap on a flat surface with something firm to “push” the needle cap against.
  2. Holding the syringe in one hand, slip the needle into the cap without using the other hand.
  3. Push the capped needle against a firm object to secure the cap firmly onto the needle.

Several needle recapping devices are available for purchase; devices have a hole in the center that hold the needle cap in place and allow for single hand recapping.  Alternatively, the cap may be placed in a conical tube or rack so the needle may be inserted into the cap and secured by pushing the needle downward onto the cap.

Staff should NEVER recap a needle using both hands.  It is recommended that sharps containers be readily available such that used needles/syringes can be immediately discarded following use.