Regulations on the Disposal of Blood Contaminated Waste

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In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, designed to protect approximately 5.6 million employees in health care and related occupations. It was developed to protect them against exposure to bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

The biohazard symbol must be on all containers of dangerous biological substances.
The biohazard symbol must be on all containers of dangerous biological substances.

OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

This standard has numerous requirements, including the development of an Exposure Control Plan. There are specific rules concerning the disposal of certain wastes that health-care facilities generate. These wastes are referred to as “regulated wastes” and include blood and items contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).

Regulated waste must be clearly identified with the biohazard label.
Regulated waste must be clearly identified with the biohazard label.

Exposure Control Plan

The employer must develop a written program outlining protective measures to be taken to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood and OPIM. Job classifications, tasks and procedures must be identified where there is exposure to blood and OPIM. Employers must insure universal precautions are being followed and must provide gloves, masks and protective equipment. Procedures must be developed to evaluate exposure incidents promptly, to comply with the standards, to communicate hazards to employees and keep necessary records.

Specimens should have a biohazard label before transport.
Specimens should have a biohazard label before transport.

Disposal of Regulated Waste

OSHA uses the term “regulated waste” when referring to the following categories of waste: liquid or semi-liquid blood or OPIM, items contaminated or caked with OPIM or blood that could release these substances if compressed, contaminated sharps, and pathological and microbiological wastes containing OPIM or blood. Disposal must be in accordance with state regulations and basic OSHA requirements. Waste must be placed in containers that are closable, constructed to prevent leakage, labeled or color-coded. The containers must be closed prior to removal to prevent spillage and, if contamination of the outside occurs, the container must be placed in a second container that meets the above requirements.

Employers must provide prompt evaluation of employee needle-stick injuries.
Employers must provide prompt evaluation of employee needle-stick injuries.

Sharps Management

Sharps containers must be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol and the word “Biohazard” or color-coded red. The containers should be easily accessible to employees and located as close as possible to area where sharps will be used. The containers must not be overfilled, must be kept upright and closed before disposal, storage or transport. They should be placed inside a secondary container if leakage may occur. This secondary container must be closable and constructed to prevent leakage. These containers must be labeled or color-coded.

Health-care workers must follow universal precautions.
Health-care workers must follow universal precautions.

Hazards Must Be Communicated

Warning labels that include the standard biohazard symbol and the term “Biohazard” must be included on bags, labels, containers of regulated waste, contaminated laundry, refrigerators and freezers used to store blood or OPIM and on containers used to store, dispose of, transport or ship blood or OPIM. Contaminated equipment must be labeled.

Blood contaminated laundry must be placed in color-coded  bags.
Blood contaminated laundry must be placed in color-coded bags.

Mandatory Training

All employees with occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens must receive initial and annual training. Training must be provided by persons who are knowledgeable about the subject and can demonstrate expertise in the area of occupational hazards of bloodborne pathogens. Health care professionals who are qualified include infection control nurses, nurse practitioners and registered nurses. Epidemiologists and professional trainers with demonstrated expertise are also qualified.

Used syringes must be placed in labeled puncture-proof containers.
Used syringes must be placed in labeled puncture-proof containers.

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