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Medical Waste Disposal Guide: OSHA Guidelines for Bio Cleanup

Posted on 09/01/2015 by Advanced Bio in Blog

Medical businesses, including all medical practices, labs, pharmaceutical companies and dental practices, want to avoid all legal liabilities regarding medical waste disposal, SHARPS disposal and bloodborne pathogen contamination. These companies also need to protect themselves, their employees and their patients as much as possible. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rules and regulations put into place that all of these types of practices must follow, including regulations regarding bloodborne pathogens, which are possibly infectious microorganisms in blood that may cause disease.

In order to prevent contamination, ensure the safety of all employees and patients and avoid all legal liability, employers must follow both federal and state regulations regarding the treatment, decontamination and disposal of all biohazard material in the workplace.

In the medical workplace, biohazard material includes waste generated as a result of:

  • Research (particularly in regards to the treatment, diagnosis of human beings/animals)
  • SHARPS (hypodermic needles, syringes, knives, scalpels, blades and various metal or sharp medical devices)
  • Trauma Scene waste (hospital/emergency rooms)
  • Diagnosis and treatment of patients/animals

Some of this biohazard waste includes blood, bodily fluids, excrement, anatomical specimens, and biologically based chemicals as created and distributed by medical and pharmaceutical laboratories. Any linens that may have come in contact with any of these properties are also categorized as biohazard waste. Other biohazard waste materials include infectious agents or materials, wastes generated from bacteria, spores, etc; and waste from contaminated cultures.

Medical waste includes non-contaminated waste generated in the medical workplace that did not come into contact with biohazard materials. These materials may include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Non-contaminated products such as gloves or aprons
  • Non-contaminated dishes, such as petri dishes and flasks
  • Empty, unused containers or tubing

Some waste generated by different facilities isn’t included in this list, but all employers need to be aware of exactly what is generated at their facility and how each items needs to be disposed. Guidelines vary per state, and some states/businesses offer different services regarding disposal than other states. Pharmaceutical waste, in particular, is divided into waste generated by pharmaceutical professionals and waste generated in the home. Both types of waste must be disposed of properly and responsibly, following all federal and state guidelines.

OSHA Guidelines for Bloodborne Pathogen Treatment & Disposal

For a company to clean and dispose of anything exposed to bloodborne pathogens, the company must adhere to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Rules and State Health and Safety Code. This means that a business must put into place a Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan (which has to be annually updated) if even one employee can be expected to be exposed even just once a year. However, there is a federal regulation that no employee is allowed to be put in this position without the following:

  • Receiving training in bloodborne pathogens (BBP)
  • Writing a written BBP exposure control plan
  • Receiving an offer to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B (with exposure eval and follow up)
  • Receiving adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Given the ability to remove/store waste in designated waste containers with proper, color-coded labels
  • Given the ability to work in an environment where all biohazard and medical waste is properly contained

The above regulations are to be followed by all medical businesses in order for the business to function. OSHA has also put into place a Hazard Communication Standard, which requires that all employees have access to a written hazard and BPP exposure control plan, an inventory of all hazardous chemicals stored at the facility, a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet for each chemical stored at the facility, and certified employee training. In addition, the Department requires that in the workplace, employees must be aware of their sufficient exit routes, be educated of electrical standards and protected regarding electrical equipment and know their rights regarding all violations.

OSHA is extremely strict about these regulations being met before an employee can return to the job and possibly be exposed to bloodborne pathogens. Fines are very high for businesses who have violated any regulations. When any employee is exposed/injured or becomes ill regarding bloodborne pathogens, employers are required to:

  • Any medical follow up visits/procedures
  • Reporting any violations and efforts to remedy the situation
  • Cost of production loss and replacing any employees

OSHA Requirements for Biohazard Procedures and Cleanup

There are unique regulations for different types of procedures and practices regarding contamination. There are unique requirements for different rooms, for example, as a room where operations take place requires different cleanup and decontamination methods than a patient waiting room.

Following these specific regulations, each employee must clean when surfaces are contaminated, after any spill, between long breaks and lunches and at the end of a work shift. Employees do not need to take decontamination precautions after every patient procedure – only those that resulted in the spread of contaminated properties.

  • Workers should always don the appropriate PPE
  • Workers must never pick up glass or sharps materials by hand
  • Workers must always dispose of contaminates and laundry in designated, color-coded, labeled bags and bins

Medical and Biohazard Waste Disposal Services

There are obviously a lot of specific restrictions regarding the treatment, decontamination and disposal of biohazard material in the workplace. Different types of facilities and the rooms within these facilities have unique disposal guidelines, and of course, the actual disposal of these materials needs to occur at a designated waste management site. Because everything is very specific and violations are very seriously dealt with, working with a medical waste disposal company can be a wise decision. Phoenix med waste disposal professionals are trained and certified to handle all types of medical and biohazard waste, and can offer these services to many types of businesses.