- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
April 17, 1992
State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company
Bloomington, Illinois 61710
Dear Ms. Smith:
This is in response to your letter of February 7, in which you requested a clarification on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens". You wrote regarding the coverage of feminine hygiene products as regulated waste.
29 CFR 1910.1030 defines regulated waste as liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM); contaminated items that would release blood or OPIM in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or OPIM and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or OPIM.
OSHA does not generally consider discarded feminine hygiene products, used to absorb menstrual flow, to fall within the definition of regulated waste. The intended function of products such as sanitary napkins is to absorb and contain blood; the absorbent material of which they are composed would, under most circumstances, prevent the release of liquid or semi-liquid blood or the flaking off of dried blood.
OSHA expects the waste containers into which these products are discarded to be lined with a plastic or wax paper bag. Such bags should protect the employee from physical contact with the contents. Additionally, OSHA expects employers to provide employees responsible for handling the contents with suitable gloves.
At the same time, it is the employer's responsibility to determine the existence of regulated waste. This determination is not to be based on actual volume of blood, rather on the potential to release blood, e.g. when compacted in the waste container. If OSHA determines, on a case-by-case basis, that sufficient evidence of regulated waste exists, e.g., through such visual factors as a pool of liquid in the bottom of a container or dried blood flaking off during handling, or based on employee interviews, citations may be issued.
We hope this information is responsive to your concerns. Thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.
Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs