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.

January 31, 2013

Mr. Joseph C. Sheets
Boise VA Medical Center
Sterile Processing Service (SPS)
500 W Fort Street
Boise, ID 83702

Dear Mr. Sheets:

Thank you for your September 19, 2012, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was referred to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs for an interpretation of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, regarding your current procedure for preparing and transporting contaminated surgical instruments. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to issues not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our response are below.

Scenario: A VA hospital services several outlying clinics by processing and sterilizing their contaminated surgical instruments. To prepare their contaminated instruments for shipment, the clinics follow the following procedure: first, the contaminated instruments are placed into a plastic container with a lid; the instruments are then sprayed with an enzymatic foam; the container is then marked with an approved biohazard label, sealed and placed into a larger plastic container which is also labeled with a biohazard label. After the previous steps, the container is brought back to the VA hospital for processing. In addition, the individuals with potential contact with the instruments have been given the required BBP training.

Question: Does the procedure for handling contaminated, reusable surgical instruments comply with the requirements of OSHA's BBP standard?

Response: Containers into which contaminated, reusable sharps are placed need to comply with the requirements at paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(viii) of the BBP standard below:

Immediately or as soon as possible after use, contaminated reusable sharps shall be placed in appropriate containers until properly reprocessed. These containers shall be: (A) Puncture resistant; (B) Labeled or color-coded in accordance with this standard; (C) Leakproof on the sides and bottom; and (D) In accordance with the requirements set forth in paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(E) for reusable sharps.

Based on the description you provided, the containers appear to meet the criterion in (B). It is your responsibility to assure that this is in fact the case. If the containers are puncture-resistant and leakproof on the sides and bottom, they meet the criteria in (A) and (C). Through site-specific employee training, work practices and other control measures, compliance with paragraph (d)(2)(viii)(D) must also be ensured. Contaminated, reusable sharps must not be stored or processed in a manner that requires employees to reach by hand into the containers where these sharps have been placed. [1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(E)].

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 continue to consult OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.

Sincerely,

 

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate
of Enforcement Programs