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Rules to Remember When Handling Biohazard Waste



March 30, 2022



Home » Biohazard Waste Disposal » Rules to Remember When Handling Biohazard Waste

Rules to Remember When Handling Biohazard Waste

Rules to Remember When Handling Biohazard Waste. When it comes to working with biohazardous waste, it’s important to understand the risks and dangers involved with this type of waste.

Biohazardous waste is any item that has the risk of having infectious diseases that can be transmitted. This could be anything from blood-soaked bandages, materials that have dried blood caked on them that would flake off when handling, sharps waste, or any other waste that has the potential to spread pathogens.

The University of California San Diego defines Biohazard Waste as, “Biohazardous waste, also called infectious waste (such as blood, body fluids, and human cell lines), is waste contaminated with potentially infectious agents or other materials that are deemed a threat to public health or the environment.” (1)

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center defines biohazard waste as, “Biohazardous waste, also called infectious waste or biomedical waste, is any waste containing infectious materials or potentially infectious substances such as blood.” (2)

Plan Ahead and Prepare

The first and most important step when handling biohazardous waste is to be prepared. In a medical setting this is something you will likely not have to think about unless you are opening a new practice. In most existing medical settings things are already laid out and will be within an arm’s reach.

For example, if you work in a hospital, when entering a patient’s room, there will be a red biohazard bin in the room, there will be personal protection equipment, there will be a sharps container on the wall.

If you work in a manufacturing setting, or someplace where generating biohazard waste is not the norm but there is a potential for those risks. Having a person or persons trained in the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard, and a biohazard spill kit on hand would allow you to proceed. Make sure to plan ahead and have everything you need before starting. In these types of workplaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established standards for handling certain types of waste, and safeguards in place that the employer must provide the employee. Below we will speak to some of the employer responsibilities when the potential for exposure exists.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard as a guideline to protect workers. Known as Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1030, the information documents employer requirements for the protection of workers that are exposed to or have the potential to be exposed to blood or OPIM (other potentially infectious materials).

A summary of the standard includes:

Always Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Employers always should train workers about sources of infectious agent exposure and appropriate precautions for preventing infections. Two of the relevant OSHA standards requiring training are those for PPE and BBP. Under the PPE standards, employers must provide training to workers required to use PPE, including training on what equipment is necessary, when, and how they must use the equipment, and how to dispose of the equipment. In addition, where workers are exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials, employers must provide the training required by the BBP standard, including information about how to recognize tasks that may involve exposure and the methods to reduce exposure, including appropriate engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment. (3)

It is the employees’ responsibilities to follow all safety precautions including appropriate engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment when working with potentially infectious materials.

When handling biohazardous waste is to always wear protective equipment. This means when appropriate you need to wear respirators, protective clothing, and eye protection when handling biohazardous waste.

Always Label Your Waste

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.

Handle Biohazard Waste in a Secure Manner

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms present in blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens are at risk for serious or life-threatening illnesses.

Items soaked with blood that release blood when compressed or items caked with blood that will flake off when handled must be disposed of as medical waste. It will go in the clearly marked red biohazard bin, box, or bag.

Proper training is key to safely handling medical waste. Before a worker is exposed, they are required to be trained, the minimum requirement would be the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1030

In general, the standard requires employers to:

Establish an exposure control plan. This is a written plan to eliminate or minimize occupational exposures. The employer must prepare an exposure determination that contains a list of job classifications in which all workers have occupational exposure and a list of job classifications in which some workers have occupational exposure, along with a list of the tasks and procedures performed by those workers that result in their exposure.

Employers must update the plan annually to reflect changes in tasks, procedures, and positions that affect occupational exposure, and technological changes that eliminate or reduce occupational exposure. In addition, employers must annually document in the plan that they have considered and begun using appropriate, commercially available effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure. Employers must also document that they have solicited input from frontline workers in identifying, evaluating, and selecting effective engineering and work practice controls.

Implement the use of universal precautions (treating all human blood and OPIM as if known to be infectious for bloodborne pathogens).

Identify and use engineering controls. These are devices that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace. They include sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, and safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps-injury protection and needleless systems.

Identify and ensure the use of work practice controls. These are practices that reduce the possibility of exposure by changing the way a task is performed, such as appropriate practices for handling and disposing of contaminated sharps, handling specimens, handling laundry, and cleaning contaminated surfaces and items.

Provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks. Employers must clean, repair, and replace this equipment as needed. Provision, maintenance, repair and replacement are at no cost to the worker.

Make available hepatitis B vaccinations to all workers with occupational exposure. This vaccination must be offered after the worker has received the required bloodborne pathogens training and within 10 days of initial assignment to a job with occupational exposure.

Make available post-exposure evaluation and follow-up to any occupationally exposed worker who experiences an exposure incident. An exposure incident is a specific eye, mouth, other mucous membrane, non-intact skin, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM. This evaluation and follow-up must be at no cost to the worker and includes documenting the route(s) of exposure and the circumstances under which the exposure incident occurred; identifying and testing the source individual for HBV and HIV infectivity, if the source individual consents or the law does not require consent; collecting and testing the exposed worker’s blood, if the worker consents; offering postexposure prophylaxis; offering counseling; and evaluating reported illnesses. The healthcare professional will provide a limited written opinion to the employer and all diagnoses must remain confidential.

Use labels and signs to communicate hazards. Warning labels must be affixed to containers of regulated waste; containers of contaminated reusable sharps; refrigerators and freezers containing blood or OPIM; other containers used to store, transport, or ship blood or OPIM; contaminated equipment that is being shipped or serviced; and bags or containers of contaminated laundry, except as provided in the standard. Facilities may use red bags or red containers instead of labels. In HIV and HBV research laboratories and production facilities, signs must be posted at all access doors when OPIM or infected animals are present in the work area or containment module.

Provide information and training to workers. Employers must ensure that their workers receive regular training that covers all elements of the standard including, but not limited to: information on bloodborne pathogens and diseases, methods used to control occupational exposure, hepatitis B vaccine, and medical evaluation and post-exposure follow-up procedures. Employers must offer this training on initial assignment, at least annually thereafter, and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure. Also, HIV and HBV laboratory and production facility workers must receive specialized initial training, in addition to the training provided to all workers with occupational exposure. Workers must have the opportunity to ask the trainer questions. Also, training must be presented at an educational level and in a language that workers understand.

Maintain worker medical and training records. The employer also must maintain a sharps injury log, unless it is exempt under Part 1904 — Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Don’t Mix Different Types of Waste

When handling biohazardous waste, don’t mix different types of waste. This means that you shouldn’t put loose sharps waste in the red biohazard bag or box. Or medication in the sharps container. These wastes are treated differently and placing them in the wrong container can lead to contamination of the waste, thus poising a risk to the environment, humans, and animals. 

If the waste is contaminated, with another waste, follow proper procedures for your facility on segregating biohazardous waste so that it can be properly treated and disposed of.  

Biohazard Treatment and Disposal

Treatment and disposal of biohazardous waste is dependent upon the subcategory of the waste. Treatments are required to render the biohazard waste harmless, and, in many cases, the residue can be placed in a sanitary landfill. The rules and guidelines are state specific, and many will require hiring a licensed, trained, and professional biohazard waste disposal company.

Sharps must be steam sterilized in an autoclave through the use of a vendor that is licensed. The autoclave is required to have quality control checks. Prior to autoclave, the containers must be closed and taped. States regulate disposal based on the type of contaminant.

Animal carcasses are treated with incineration so that remains are rendered harmless. Prior to incineration the containers must be closed and taped.

Solid lab waste is treated with off-site steam/sterilization via an autoclave method with containers sealed and taped.

Pathological biohazard waste is treated with steam/sterilization via an autoclave method with containers sealed and taped.

Liquid biohazard materials can be diluted with the use of bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts liquid) Some states allow the resulting liquid mixture to be poured down the drain after it has sat in the mixture for thirty minutes while wearing recommended PPE (personal protective equipment). Liquid biohazard materials may also be steam sterilized via autoclave.

Conclusion

Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we love talking to our customers and potential customers, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have or to lend a helping hand where we can.

We have built our business around your business; we have invested in our infrastructure to be able to service your facility from start to finish. Our direct employees, our trucks, our equipment, our safety training, and our destruction plants that treat your medical waste.

Having one company handle your waste from ‘cradle-to-grave’ allows us to bring our customers, the best process, products, and services with significant savings compared to the industry standard pricing. We do this while reducing our client’s impact on the environment which is a true win-win. Best processes, pricing and practices is what we built our company on.

References

The University of California San Diego – Biohazardous and Medical Waste Overview https://blink.ucsd.edu/safety/research-lab/hazardous-waste/disposal-guidance/medical/index.html Accessed March 29, 2022.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – 08.0 Biohazardous Waste. https://extranet.fredhutch.org/en/u/ehs/hamm/chap6/section8.html Accessed March 29, 2022.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA Worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases. https://www.osha.gov/bloodborne-pathogens/worker-protections Accessed March 29, 2022.


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