Influencing Factors of Sharps Container Design

Influencing Factors of Sharps Container Design

August 1, 2022

Influencing Factors of Sharps Container Design

by Laura Wakelam, Chief Marketing Officer

Sharps injury prevention through safe healthcare waste disposal containers is a fundamental part of our brand DNA. Daniels Health was founded to reduce needlestick injuries by providing the very best sharps containers available.

We set out in 1986 to develop the world’s safest sharps container, and in 1999 we achieved it after many years of R&D with the launch of Daniels Sharpsmart, a reusable sharps container which to this day is unrivalled for its safety features and proven reductions in needlestick injuries.

Influencing factors that have driven safer sharps containers

Prior to the 1980’s there was very little conscious thought given to sharps injuries and/or safety factors that should influence container design. Few needlestick injuries were reported, commercial sharps containers were rare, and recapping needles was a common practice.

It wasn’t until a pre-AIDS seminal study published in 1981 by McCormack and Maki1, that pushed the issue of sharps injuries into a critical healthcare spotlight. Reviewing the causes of 316 reported needlestick injuries and revealing that 8.2% of healthcare workers reported sharps injuries annually, the study authors made the clear determination that two safety factors needed renewed focus – firstly education against the practice of recapping used needles, and secondly the adaption of safer needle disposal systems.

Two years after the study was published, the first healthcare worker occupationally contracted HIV, and suddenly their findings garnered international attention. McCormack’s 1991 follow up study revealed an alarming 18.7% of healthcare workers reported sharps injuries annually, indicating that more than a million healthcare practitioners were suffering needlestick injuries each year.

A very clear recommendation came to light that engineered controls (safety devices) were integral to interrupting a dangerous trend.  

Container Associated Sharps Injuries

Commercial sharps containers emerged in the 1980’s and introduced an alternative solution to the common practice of needle recapping.

With this, came a new subset of sharps injuries, now known as ‘container associated sharps injuries’ (CASI). Until 2001, CASI commonly accounted for between 10-20% of total sharps injuries with sharps containers that lacked basic safety features that would actively prevent against disposal injury.

Small lid openings, potential to overfill, penetrable plastic, hand-access and unsecured closure were all factors that saw the earlier-design containers assisting rather than preventing needlestick injuries.

The primary causes of container associated sharps injuries included the following:

• Overfilling or insensitive door causes sharps to bounce out

• Sharps protruding from sharps container due to small aperture/lid opening

• Sharps penetrating through thin-walls of container

• Hand access into the sharps container in the absence of a restrictive door or secure closure

• Manipulation of the sharps container without deposited needles being secured by a permanent closure

Introducing Human Factors Engineering into sharps container design

When Daniels introduced its Sharpsmart system, it was a revolutionary approach to sharps disposal. Through human factors engineering, a wide spectrum of human behaviour was examined, resulting in a list of safety features that were deemed mandatory to effectively protect the wellbeing of healthcare workers.

The Sharpsmart system was and is today the only sharps container solution in the world that provides total protection against the common causes of container associated sharps injuries.

Below are a few of the 13 safety features mandated and finally perfected in Daniels’ 5 year R&D process:


Sharps containers don’t have an endless bottom like Mary Poppin’s travel bag; but sometimes people still try fill them to the very brim. Overfilling is unsafe and against regulations for how full sharps containers can be. The Sharpsmart’s overfill protection tray is automatically engaged when the container reaches capacity, raising the tray and clearly signalling “FULL”.

reusable sharps containers



You know how motorcycle helmet plastic is so durable it can protect your precious noggin in the event of an accident? Our containers are made of the same material. The Sharpsmart eliminates sharps injuries and risks from punctured plastic.

reusable sharps containers


The Sharpsmart is equipped with a larger opening than your standard sharps container – making it easier and safer to dispose of sharps. An added layer of protection with the opening is the no-hand access safety-tray mechanism. It is impossible to reach in and retrieve any contents from the container.

reusable sharps containers


The tilt-tray in the Sharpsmart can perceive even the most lightweight of sharps – automatically dipping back to dispose of the sharp once it hits the tray.

reusable sharps containers


Temporary locks on the front of the Sharpsmart allow you to securely close the container while you transport it to another location to use. Once the container is full, the permanent locks on the side can be activated – ensuring full security until the sharps container reaches a Daniels’ treatment plant.

Sharps Containers



1 Am J Med. 1981 Apr;70(4):928-32. Epidemiology of needle-stick injuries in hospital personnel.

For more information or for a free, no obligation demonstration please contact Melanie Marcelino on 031 267 9700 or email

Reference: Laura Wakelam, Chief Marketing Officer - Daniels Health