OSHA Biohazard Waste Disposal
OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The organization was created in 1970 to help employers reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. OSHA biohazardous waste standards protect workers whose job it is to handle biohazardous waste and other hazardous materials.
Biohazardous waste (sometimes called medical waste) refers to waste that has the risk of carrying infectious diseases. Because improper disposal of biohazardous waste can seriously compromise a community’s health and safety, state health departments have issued regulations that determine which wastes require special handling.
Examples of OSHA Biohazard Waste
- Human blood and blood products. All human blood, plasma, items that have been contaminated with blood, or other tissues and body fluids containing visible blood.
- Human body fluids. Semen, vaginal secretions, peritoneal fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, amniotic fluid, and any other body fluids that are contaminated with blood or are difficult to differentiate.
- Microbiological waste. Discarded specimen cultures and viruses, disposable culture dishes, and wastes from serum production.
- Pathological waste. Unfixed human tissue, organs, body parts, and biopsy materials.
- Animal waste. Animal body parts, carcasses, and bedding material from animals that have been infected with pathogenic microorganisms.
- Sharps waste. Needles, glass slides, scalpels, glass pipettes, and broken glass that has been contaminated with blood or other infectious material.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
According to the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, “In 1991, OSHA promulgated the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This standard is designed to protect approximately 5.6 million workers in the healthcare and related occupations from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as HIV and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).”
The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard has several requirements:
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- Development of an Exposure Control Plan. A written program (by the employer) that outlines the protective measures an employer will take to minimize employee exposure to blood and other biohazardous waste.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). Those exposed to blood or biological fluids should wear PPE such as gloves, booties, full-body suits, and respirators.
- Training for employees. All employees with occupational exposure to biohazardous waste should receive initial and annual training.
- Communication of biohazardous materials to employees. A biohazard warning label must be included on every bag or container of medical waste.
- Mandatory Hepatitis B vaccinations.
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