Fire from Electrocautery Pen in a Sharps Container

​Recently, a fire started in a sharps container where someone had disposed of an electrocautery surgery pen.  It is believed that the little switch which activates the pen (see photo below) was inadvertently pressed when waste was put into the container the next day. There was damage to the wall and a lot of smoke. An ABC extinguisher was used to extinguish the fire and the extinguishing agent blanketed the room.  

The electrocautery pens are very dangerous. It is very easy to switch the pen on. It has apparently been standard practice to dispose of used cautery pens in a sharps container. The batteries are not removable. The cautery pen can be activated even with the cap on. If the cover is not put on it properly it can activate the unit.  

The following actions will be taken to prevent a similar incident in the future:

  • The wire tip of all pens will be removed with a hemostat prior to disposal of the device, as per manufacturers instructions.

  • An unlined, metal sharps containers will be used for the disposal of the electro cautery pens.

  • All personnel who use these devices will be educated on how to dispose of it.

  • Instructional signage will be prominently posted describing disposal procedures.

  • Hemostats will be stored and kept in the room where the devices are used.