FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Since the inception of www.diabetesatwork.org, we have received and responded to many questions. We will periodically post the most frequently asked questions and answers including additional resources.

Question: If an employee self-administers insulin injections during the workday, what responsibility does the employer have to ensure that the needles the employee uses at work are properly disposed of?

Reply: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, does not apply to the self-administration of insulin by employees or their disposal of insulin syringes used for self-administration except at places otherwise covered by the standard, such as health care facilities, industrial first aid units, and laboratories. Thus, the use and disposal of such syringes at the typical office, such as a call center, would not be covered.

Improper disposal of insulin needles however, can create a safety hazard for maintenance workers, waste handlers and janitors who must later handle the office trash placing them at risk for exposures to bloodborne pathogens including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C from needlestick injuries. Therefore, OSHA recommends that employers require insulin-using employees to discard their used syringes in special containers rather than allowing them to be discarded in regular office trash. There are commercially available sharps containers and needle destruction devices manufactured and marketed for home use which would be appropriate in this scenario.

Additionally, there are a number of community sharps disposal programs operated through community organizations, local health departments, fire departments, hospitals, health clinics, and pharmacies which act as designated drop-off sites for filled sharps containers used by residents who self-inject. Many of these community programs offer free sealable containers made of rigid, puncture-resistant plastic, for self-injectors to use and return when full. These programs help in reducing the number of used needles that enter the regular trash and minimize the potential for waste handlers to get stuck by used needles. In lieu of a locally available community sharps disposal program, public health officials advise self-injectors to use approved household containers to collect used syringes which might then be accepted for disposal in municipal household hazardous waste collection sites. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published informational brochures on various community options for safe needle disposal which are publicly available on EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov.

Resources: The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal

The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal a non-profit is a collaboration of businesses, community groups, non-profit associations and local, state and federal government entities committed to promoting public awareness of the hazards posed by improperly disposed sharps and solutions for the safe community disposal of needles, syringes and other sharps.

Contact the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at 1-800-643-1643 Ask about the availability of safe disposal programs in your area or for information on setting up a community disposal program.

Resources: American Diabetes Association

General recommendations on disposal of sharps. www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/safety.jsp

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.