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OSHA Biohazard Labeling Requirements

May 12, 2021

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OSHA Biohazard Labeling Requirements

Biohazard waste is any biological material that can create a threat to the health of living organisms and the environment.  The categories of biohazard waste include human blood and blood products, animal waste, human body fluids, microbiological wastes, pathological wastes, and sharps wastes. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has stabled strict guidelines for handling, labeling, storage, transporting, and disposal of each type of biohazard waste. The labeling of biohazard waste is critical in establishing the safety factors required for all steps. OSHA created the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard so that each waste type can be easily identified.

Biohazard Color Coding and Labels

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard indicates that a biohazard label is required to be affixed to all equipment and work areas that contain infectious agents, human blood or OPIM (other potentially infectious materials) as well as on all of the containers for biological waste. The warning label that has the universal “biohazard symbol” must also include the word “biohazard,” and must be on all containers and bags associated with the biohazard waste.

In addition to bags and containers, the biohazard symbol and word must be placed on any laundry that is contaminated, on freezers and refrigerators that are used for OPIM or blood storage, and on storage bags/containers for biohazard materials for storage, transport, shipping, and disposal of OPIM or blood. All equipment that may be contaminated that is shipped or services must have an easily readable word of “biohazard” along with the biohazard symbol and a statement indicating which portions of the equipment may be contaminated.

The use of orange-red or fluorescent orange as a background color for biohazard labels is required with lettering and symbols in contrasting color so that it’s easy to read. The label is required to be either an integral container part or affixed to the container with adhesive, wire, or string, or any method that can guarantee that the label will not be lost of removed unintentionally.

Red containers or red bags may be substituted for biohazard labels.

Labeling Exceptions

There are circumstances where the above-mentioned labeling is either not required or has an alternative option:

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