OSHA biohazard waste disposal guidelines. OSHA has created standards for the handling and disposal of biohazard wastes for worker protection. Since 1970, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed. OSHA has developed standards to assist employers in the reduction of injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace. This includes handling and disposing of biohazard waste to safeguard workers.
OSHA has strict guidelines for biohazard waste disposal. Failure to follow these rules can have serious consequences for your business. OSHA inspections are unannounced and happen whenever OSHA has reason to believe there is a problem in a workplace. An unannounced inspection might be triggered by a complaint from an employee, an accident report, or other evidence that there is a problem at the facility. If you don’t know the rules regarding biohazard waste disposal, you could get caught off guard if and when OSHA comes knocking on your door.
Disposing of biohazardous items, safely, and handling them correctly is crucial to keeping employees and visitors safe. Understanding what specific regulations exist regarding OSHA biohazard waste disposal can protect your company against fines or any other unwanted outcomes from OSHA inspections.
Medical waste is also referred to as biohazard or infectious waste. Biohazardous waste is any item that may transmit infectious diseases. When not properly managed at facilities or disposed of properly, biohazardous waste can cause harm to individuals, communities, and the environment. Many states have established health department or EPA regulations regarding biohazardous waste handling and disposal in addition to the OSHA federal regulations.
OSHA does not have regulations concerning the act of disposing of biohazardous waste, that is left to the individual states. However, OSHA does have regulations regarding working safety and biohazard waste disposal.
Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
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:
Development of an Exposure Control Plan. Employer written program that details the protective measures that the employer will take to decrease employee exposure to blood and any infectious items including biohazardous waste.
Personal protective equipment (PPE). Any staff member that risks potential exposure to blood or biological fluids will be supplied with and should wear PPE such as gloves, full bodysuits, booties, and respirators.
Training for employees. All personnel with occupational exposure to biohazardous waste should receive initial and annual training. The training includes identifying medical waste, handling, and proper disposal of biohazardous waste.
Communication of hazards to employees. Training, Labels, Markings, Color-coding, etc. A biohazard warning label must be included on every bag or container of medical waste.
Mandatory Hepatitis B vaccinations. All employees that may be exposed to biohazardous waste will receive a Hepatitis B vaccination and employer will bear the cost.
Contaminated sharps shall be discarded immediately or as soon as feasible in containers that are closable, puncture resistant, leakproof on sides and bottom, and labeled or color-coded in accordance with OSHA’s regulations 29 CFR 1910.1030.
During use, containers for contaminated sharps shall be easily accessible to personnel and located as close as is feasible to the immediate area where sharps are used or can be reasonably anticipated to be found, maintained upright throughout use, and replaced routinely and not be allowed to overfill.
An employer, who is required to establish an Exposure Control Plan shall solicit input from non-managerial employees responsible for direct patient care who are potentially exposed to injuries from contaminated sharps in the identification, evaluation, and selection of effective engineering and work practice controls and shall document the solicitation in the Exposure Control Plan.
Contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps shall not be bent, recapped, or removed unless the employer can demonstrate that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure.
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