Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 to assist employers in the reduction of injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace. OSHA has created standards for the handling and disposal of biohazard wastes for worker protection.
Biohazardous waste is also commonly known as medical waste. Biohazardous waste is any item that has the risk of having infectious diseases that can be transmitted. This form of waste can cause damage to people, the community, and the environment when not properly dealt with in facilities and for disposal. Many states have established additional guidelines through their state health departments regarding the regulations for handling and disposal of biohazardous waste.
Biohazardous Waste Defined: Some examples of biohazardous waste can include but are not limited to:
The 1991 OSHA standard was created to protect healthcare workers and occupations that put them at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The standard includes:
Employers must determine the responsibility of regulated waste based on the potential to release blood or infectious fluids. Regulated waste is used in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standards as it relates to:
Containers that are for holding sharps must either be red color-coded or have an outside label with the universal biohazard symbol. The containers for sharps must remain upright throughout use, be routinely replaced, and not be allowed to be overfilled.
Sharps must be placed in a secondary container if leakage is possible with the secondary container requirement that it is closable, made from materials that are puncture-resistant and prevents leakage during handling, storage, shipping or transport, color-coded or labeled according to standard as well as tied at the top with zip or twist ties. Any reusable containers must not be opened, cleaned manually or emptied in any method that could possibly expose anyone to injury risk. Once containers are closed they should be duct taped to ensure the sharps container lid is secure.
Primary sharps containers are constructed of a number of materials from plastic to cardboard, however, they must comply with the sharps container requirements of being puncture-resistant, leak-proof on the bottom and sides, must be closeable, must be color-coded or labeled.
While containers for sharps should be easily accessible to employees, they should also be placed as close as possible to the area in which they will be used. In some cases a common area may not be possible and the use of mobile carts with lockable sharps containers is the alternative.
The universal biohazard symbol along with the word “biohazard” must be included on all containers and bags that contain regulated waste, contaminated laundry, freezers or refrigerators that store blood or OPIM, and on containers/bags that store, dispose of, ship, or transport blood or OPIM. Any equipment that may be contaminated and is being shipped or serviced must have the easily identifiable universal biohazard label and the word “biohazard” as well as a statement indicating what areas of the equipment may be contaminated.
Label colors must have a background of fluorescent orange or orange-red with lettering and symbols in contrasting color. The label must either be part of the container or affixed as close as possible to the container with adhesive, string, wire or any method to keep it from being unintentionally removed or lost. Red bags or red containers can be substituted for the biohazard labels.
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