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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1030; 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A); 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(C)

October 26, 2007

Mr. Gary Gilliam
Executive Vice President
Ecolotec, LLC
1100 Jordan Lane, Suite E
Huntsville, AL 35816

Dear Mr. Gilliam:

This is in response to your letter in which you ask the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to comment on the disposal of unground medical waste in landfill operations. You made several assertions in favor of requiring medical facilities and other medical waste generators to ensure that all medical wastes are ground or shredded prior to being transported to landfills. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situations not delineated within your original correspondence. We apologize for the delay in providing a response to your concerns.

OSHA agrees with your comments that medical waste can indeed present numerous potential dangers to downstream handlers (e.g., employees in landfills, recycling facilities, etc.). The hazards include the potential for lacerations and other percutaneous injuries as well as the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. However, OSHA does not regulate the final disposal of medical waste. OSHA stated in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(C): disposal of all regulated waste shall be in accordance with applicable regulations of the United States, States and Territories, and political subdivisions of States and Territories.

The OSHA standard provides that regulated waste containing contaminated sharps be discarded in containers which are: a) closable, b) puncture resistant; c) leakproof on sides and bottom; and d) labeled or color-coded in accordance with the standard [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)]. OSHA established these provisions for the protection of employees within the facility that generates the contaminated sharps as well as for those who must handle the waste downstream. These measures are generally consistent with the requirements of most state regulations with regard to the handling (i.e., segregation, containment, and labeling) of used sharps. As you may already know, there may be variation among different states with regard to acceptable measures of treatment of medical waste prior to final disposal. You may want to contact individual states for clarification on the requirements enforced within their jurisdiction.

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

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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