April 8, 2011
Ms. Jessica Mikuliak, FNP-C
60 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Ms. Mikuliak:
This is in response to your e-mail inquiry in which you ask the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to clarify its policy on the containerization and disposal of specimen containers used for urine collection in medical settings. 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. The scenario you presented in your inquiry and your specific question has been rephrased below followed by OSHA's response.
Scenario: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) guidance document, Guidelines for Protecting the Safety and Health of Health Care Workers, NIOSH Publication No. 88-119, recommends including "[c]ontaminated laboratory wastes" in a healthcare facility's hazardous waste disposal containers. According to the CDC guidance at p. 6-2, "[c]ontaminated laboratory wastes include medical specimen containers, slides and cover slips, disposable gloves, laboratory coats, and aprons." (Emphasis added). Some interpret this to mean that CDC recommends all specimen containers, including those used in the collection of urine samples, to be discarded as hazardous waste.
Question: Does OSHA require employers to discard specimen containers used for collecting urine in red-bags or biohazard-labeled regulated waste containers?
Response: The OSHA requirement for containerization of regulated waste is limited to items which are contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii). As your e-mail points out, the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard defines "regulated waste" to mean "liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials." [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(b)]. Urine is not per se OPIM, which is defined at 29 CFR 1910.1030(b) as:
(1) The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids;
(2) Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and
(3) HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.
Therefore, urine collection containers would not be considered regulated waste under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard unless the sample it contained was contaminated with blood or OPIM. Please be aware that OSHA does not regulate the final disposal of regulated medical waste. You should contact the Environmental Protection Agency and the appropriate District of Columbia agency for more information on this matter.
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.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs