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• Standard Number: 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)(l)(i)

January 5, 2010

Frank Savona
19 Valley View Court
Hamden, CT 06518

Dear Mr. Savona:

Thank you for your November 24, 2009, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was forwarded to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for a response. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question(s) not delineated within your original correspondence. For clarification, your question is paraphrased below followed by OSHA's responses.

Question 1: Does the OSHA requirement for sharps containers to be "closable" [29 CFR 1910.1030 (d)(4)(iii)(A)(l)(i)] permit employers to maintain the entire lid on a sharps container open during use, closing it only after the container is full or should the small opening on the lid of the container be used for depositing all contaminated sharps (instead of the entire lid) and then closed when the container is full?

Reply 1: The disposal opening on a sharps container should be of a size and design that would permit safe disposal of sharps. OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030 (d)(4)(iii)(A)(l)(i) requires that sharps containers be closable, but does not specify a set size for the opening on a container to be. Sharps containers are used for disposal of contaminated sharps of various sizes and configurations. Therefore, OSHA has not determined that any single sharps container design is appropriate for all facilities or for all areas of use within a given facility.

According to recommendations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) document, Selecting, Evaluating, and Using Sharps Disposal Containers, the selection of a sharps container should be based on a site-specific hazard analysis. Employers should select the appropriate container design after assessing the hazards associated with use of sharps containers (e.g., considering the size and types of contaminated sharps the employer expects to dispose of). Generally, when containers having small opening(s) on the lid are selected for use, the employer has based such a selection on a determination that the configuration of the opening(s) would accommodate the largest sharp being used in the particular workstation/location. In situations where the small opening on the lid of the container is of sufficient size to accommodate all sharps requiring disposal, there should be no need for the entire lid to be opened. If the employer is finding the need to open the entire lid, perhaps further evaluation is needed to assure that the container selected is suitable to accommodate sharps of all types and sizes that require disposal. It is likely that a container of a different size, type or design configuration would be more appropriate in the specific situation of use.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents