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 https://www.osha.gov.

May 28, 1992

Mr. John T. McCaffrey, D.O.
Director of Medical Department
Raytheon Company Submarine
Signal Division
1847 West Main Road
Portmouth, RI 02872

Dear Dr. McCaffrey:

This is in response to your letter of March 9, 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, vaginal speculums, bandages, and insulin syringes as regulated waste.

The bloodborne pathogens standard 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. OSHA expects the waste containers into which these products are discarded to be lined in such a way as to protect employees from physical contact with the contents.

Bandages which are not saturated to the point of releasing blood or OPIM if compressed would not be considered as regulated waste. Similarly, vaginal speculums do not normally meet the criteria for regulated waste as defined by the standard.

Beyond these general guidelines, 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 or OPIM, 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.

Discarded insulin syringes create a potential for exposure for persons emptying the trash whether the insulin is administered by the diabetic herself or by a health care worker and whether the disposal occurs in a health care facility or elsewhere. The employer has the responsibility for protecting custodial workers who are encountering discarded insulin syringes in the trash. This can be accomplished by including those custodial workers in the exposure control plan or by other means such as requiring insulin-using employees to discard their used syringes in special containers.

We hope this information is responsive to your concerns. If you have further questions on this subject, please feel free to contact [the Regional Bloodborne Pathogens Coordinator in our South Boston Regional Office at 617-565-6923].


Patricia K. Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Correction 6/2/2005]