McMaster University

McMaster University


Scalpel Safety

Following basic safety precautions can help make scalpel use and handling safer for everyone. Here are some tips:

  1. Don't use scalpel blades without a handle. The handle provides you with a means to control the blade and puts a barrier between your hand and the sharp edge. Use disposable safety scalpels with fixed blades when possible.
  2. Training, training, training. Nothing replaces proper training on how to use and handle blades. Practice should be done using non-hazardous materials before diving into procedures involving biohazards.
  3. If possible, wear a cut-resistant glove on the non-dominant hand when that hand needs to be near the blade.
  4. Make sure replacement scalpel blades are securely attached to the handle.
  5. Don’t use excessive force or a sawing motion with a scalpel. Sharp blades are thin, which means they can easily be broken.
  6. Never put a scalpel in any pocket… lab coat or other.
  7. Never leave an open blade unattended. Retract it, dispose of it, or stow it in a safe location before turning your attention to something else.
  8. For scalpels without blade covers or retractable blades, keep a knife holder within reach and place the scalpel in the holder every time you set it down.
  9. For disposables, a sharps container and removal box should be nearby so that the blade can be thrown away immediately after use. Sharps containers must be properly labeled with the biohazard symbol.
  10. Use a one-handed technique for replacing safety covers. Scalpels that have safety features should be made for one-handed operation. When passing a scalpel from person to person, develop a system that keeps both people from having a hand on it at the same time.
  11. When cleaning and/or sharpening reusable blades, use cleaning utensils that keep hands from contacting the blade such as a brush with a handle. Cut-resistant gloves are another option.
  12. Always put blades where they belong immediately after use… whether that’s in a properly labeled sharps container or in a case or holder for scalpels. 

Scalpel Safety Video

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