Teaching and enforcing protocols about how to use a scalpel safely are top concerns wherever these tools are used. This is because scalpels are known for being extremely sharp and dangerous. That makes sense; they’re most often considered surgical tools. In this application, they’re made to smoothly cut through skin, muscle, and connective tissue. Lacerations are their job.
But that’s not true for all applications. Scalpels are excellent for their precision and maneuverability in tight spaces. This makes them popular in laboratories and in manufacturing, or wherever precise cutting or scraping is required.
Regardless of the application, scalpel safety rules are paramount. All of these jobs have one thing in common: they require hand and finger dexterity. A hand laceration can sideline or permanently disable a worker who relies heavily on fine hand movements. Hands are complex and difficult to heal once someone sustains a serious injury, so prevention is critical.
How to Use a Scalpel Correctly
Scalpels, which in lab lingo fall into the category of “sharps”, are so dangerous that one of the first suggestions in some precautionary texts is to avoid them whenever possible. Under its guidelines “Using Sharps Safely in the Laboratory,” Princeton University suggests: “Whenever possible, eliminate the use of devices... that can puncture your skin. As part of your risk assessment process, identify all sharps you are using in your procedures and consider if an alternative is available.”
When you must use a scalpel, Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggests:
- Use a disposable, fixed blade scalpel when possible
- Position a sharps container nearby for easy disposal of your scalpel
- Never use a scalpel blade without a handle
- Don’t leave blades out after use
- Don’t use excessive force or a sawing motion when using a scalpel
The reason instructions about how to use a scalpel safely include using a disposable tool is that replacing the blade requires either that a) the scalpel features a safety mechanism to enclose the blade, or b) the scalpel requires an extra tool to remove and replace the blade. That is, workers aren’t allowed to directly handle an exposed blade.
Among other precautions set forth by Vanderbilt: “Use disposable safety scalpels with fixed blades whenever possible. These devices eliminate the need to remove a blade, which requires significant skill to perform safely.”
This detailed video covers how cumbersome scalpel blade changes can be, and the dangers they pose to you and those around you:
What if Learning How to Use a Scalpel Correctly Didn’t Involve Excessively Sharp Blades?
For those who need to use scalpels for surgery, there is no alternative to using an excessively sharp blade. However, for non-surgical uses, cutting through skin and muscle is precisely what you’re trying to avoid. The extreme sharpness is an unnecessary hazard.
Unfortunately, almost all non-surgical scalpels feature overly sharp blades, be they metal or ceramic. Slice® is the only cutting tool manufacturer to create a safer blade. All Slice blades, including our scalpel blades, feature our patent-pending finger-friendly® grind: they’re safe to the touch.
Slice safety blades are made of 100 zirconium oxide, an advanced ceramic: it’s important to understand that not all ceramic blades are created equal. Not only do our blades feature a proprietary safer grind, they are thicker, and they capitalize on the inherent hardness of zirconium oxide. Slice blades last up to 11 times longer than their metal counterparts.
Slice Non-Surgical Scalpels: Two Models, Tool-Free Blade Changes
Slice makes two types of scalpel: a disposable scalpel and a replaceable-blade scalpel. The former is for one-time use in environments that require sterilized tools. It features the same long-lasting safety blade found in all Slice tools.
The gamma-sterilized Slice 10574 Disposable Scalpel comes in packs of five individually wrapped scalpels.
If you’re looking for a tool you can use longer term, the replaceable blade model is your best choice. For sterilization purposes, this tool is autoclave friendly.
The Slice® 10568 replaceable blade scalpel and all of its compatible safety blades.
This scalpel doesn’t require any additional tools to change the blade. While you should always be cautious when making a blade change, Slice blades aren’t so dangerous that you can’t handle them directly. Our rounded-tip blades are safe enough to not require a sharps box for disposal. And because Slice blades are longer-lasting, you’ll change blades less frequently.
Slice blades reduce the risk of lacerations in the workplace. This is great news for your workforce, and for your company. Lacerations are expensive and have a negative impact on productivity and employee morale. They can also increase your total recordable incident rate.
Many Blades, Many Favorable Properties
Several different blade designs fit the Slice 10568 replaceable blade scalpel: the straight edge pointed-tip blade, straight edge rounded-tip blade, curved edge rounded-tip blade, and pointed-tip seam ripper blade, to name a few. This latter blade works well for particularly fine work. The blade you choose depends on your needs and the required level of safety.
All Slice blades feature these properties:
- Rust free
- Contain no metal
- Chemically inert
Safer Is Always Better
When you aren’t required to use extremely sharp blades, Slice scalpels offer a safer, longer-lasting alternative. This is a significant step in addressing the serious issue of how to use a scalpel safely.
How can I successfully implement new safety initiatives?
How do I get buy-in from management and workers?
What’s the best way to build trust and rapport?
Should EHS be a C-Suite position?
We explore these questions and more on the Safety Labs by Slice podcast. Check us out using the links below.