Misuse of cutting tools/sharps may lead to injuries. These injuries can be minor (small cuts) or major (gashes, lacerations). Review best practices for handling and using cutting tools to guard against injuries.

Figure 1. Common cutting tools/sharps found in the lab

Safety Tips for Cutting Tools/Sharps

  • Razor Blade
    • If using a razor blade as a knife, secure the blade in a holder to avoid directly handling the blade.
    • Practice caution when unwrapping new blades. Be mindful of your hand and finger placement.
    • Do not use the blade as a lever as it is brittle and can break when force is applied – see Figures 2A and 2B.
  • Knife
    • Select the appropriate knife for the task. Unmounted blades (e.g., microtome blades) are not appropriate for use as hand tools.
    • Hold the knife properly to maintain control while using it.
  • Microtome Blade
    • The microtome blade is extremely sharp and must be handled with care.
    • Develop a microtome SOP for general use and maintenance based on the manufacturer’s operating manual.
  • Box Cutter
    • Fully retract the blade when not in use.
    • Change out dull, old, or rusty blades.
  • Scalpel
    • When changing spent blades, do not touch the blades directly. Use forceps or other scalpel blade removers.
      • Watch this video for simple steps on how to change scalpel blades with forceps.
    • Minimize passing scalpels person-to-person during team procedures (e.g., surgery).  Utilize the Hands-Free Passing Technique by leaving scalpels in a neutral zone for retrieval.
Figure 2A. Do not use razor blade as a lever.
Figure 2B. The razor blade is brittle and will break when force is applied.

Safe Work Practices

Regardless of the cutting tool selected, follow these practices to ensure that the blade cuts the intended object and not you. Ensure that a first aid kit is available for minor cutting injuries.

Figure 3A. Cut in direction away from the body.
Figure 3B. Blade travel is in the direction of the body.
Figure 3C. Hands are placed in the direction of blade travel.

Storage and Disposal

  • Sharps must not be left unattended. When not in use, sharps shall be stored in an appropriate secondary container – see Figures 4A and 4B.
  • Dispose of spent blades (contaminated, non-contaminated) in appropriate waste containers. Consult the Hazardous Waste Management Manual for details.
Figure 4A. Flat container for razor blade storage.
Figure 4B. Capped tube for sharps storage.