- 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.
June 2, 2009
2289 Rankin Ave
Columbus, OH 43211-2376
Dear Ms. Tanksley:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was routed to another office before being forwarded to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs in OSHA's National Office. You had several specific questions regarding disposal of blood and other infectious waste. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question(s) or scenarios not delineated within your original correspondence. We apologize for any delay in responding to your inquiry. For clarification, your questions have been listed below followed by OSHA's responses.
Question 1: What are the policies for disposal of blood/body fluids and infectious waste? Is blood treated differently than other body fluids?
Reply 1: The final disposal of all regulated waste must be in accordance with applicable regulations of the United States, States and Territories, and political subdivisions of States and Territories [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(C)].
OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, has provisions for the protection of employees during the containment, storage, and transport of regulated waste other than contaminated sharps [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B)]. 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 [29 CFR 1910.1030(b)].
In general, regulated wastes, other than contaminated sharps, must be placed in containers which are: (i) Closable; (ii) Constructed to contain all contents and prevent leakage of fluids during handling, storage, transport or shipping; (iii) Labeled or color-coded in accordance with paragraphs (g)(1)(i); (iv) Closed prior to removal to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, transport, or shipping [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B)(1)(i)-(iv)].
Question 2: Is it acceptable to dispose of items that have blood or body fluids present in either septic systems or normal garbage? If so, how much blood and body fluids can be present?
Reply 2: Please see our reply to question #1 for OSHA's definition and requirements for containerization of regulated waste as well as information on the requirements for final disposal of regulated waste. It is the employer's responsibility to determine the existence of regulated waste. This determination is not based on actual volume of blood, but rather on the potential to release blood, (e.g., when compacted in the waste container).
Question 3: What are the repercussions when addressing facilities where violations have been found on improper disposal, and what are the common disposal-related violations found during OSHA inspections?
Reply 3: When OSHA conducts an inspection addressing regulated waste concerns, compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If OSHA determines that sufficient evidence exists that the standard has been violated, a citation carrying monetary penalties may be issued to the employer. Over the past 5 years, OSHA has issued numerous violations for improper containerization of regulated waste [i.e., violations of section 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B)(1) of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard].
Question 4: Are there different guidelines for body fluid disposals with clinics versus hospitals?
Reply 4: Employers in clinics and hospitals must comply with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Employers must evaluate their individual workplaces and institute measures to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood or OPIM based on the unique set of scenarios or tasks in the facility. An exposure control plan is the employer's written program which is required to outline the protective measures taken.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs