Bloodborne Pathogen Protection and Related Waste

OSHA established rules in 1991 to safeguard healthcare workers from bloodborne pathogens. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard applies to employees who work with blood in a clinical setting. Employers must take certain precautions when “regulated waste” is generated. OSHA considers regulated blood waste to be: “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.”

This standard was instituted because of concerns about HBV (hepatitis B virus) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in the population.

OPIM (Other Potentially Infectious Material) is considered the same as blood under this standard. OSHA says this is “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”

What Must Be Done?

  • Publish an Exposure Control Plan. The plan should lay out reasonable and viable measures to limit employee exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material.
  • PPE - Personal protective equipment - The employer must provide PPE to employees who need them.
  • Hepatitis B vaccinations - Employees who work with regulated blood waste must have the option of getting a vaccination against Hepatitis B and the employer must pay for the vaccination. Employees have the option of declining the vaccination.
  • Training - Employees who work with regulated blood waste should get trained in waste management when they start their jobs and periodic refresher training thereafter.
  • Labelling of waste - The OSHA standard dictates labelling, but we think labelling is a good idea anyway, throughout your operations, not just for blood products or blood-contaminated waste. Because blood is often kept in refrigeration, the refrigerator door must include a medical waste warning when appropriate.

Hardware Requirements

Depending on the situation, biological safety cabinets may be required when blood is handled. This is especially true when the blood is being analyzed or worked on, not just drawn from the patient.

Also, the employer must keep a record of all sharps injuries, with date, person injured, severity of injury, and if possible name of patient blood came from (provided this info does not compromise confidentiality of either employee or patient.)

People who clean up after an accident or crime which results in release of blood are not legally obligated to follow the OSHA rules here, but most professional services institute the same practices as a matter of prudence.

Can you put bloody items in the garbage or flush it? You should not flush blood down the drain, unless it is incidental blood being washed off a person’s skin. If there is a potential to release liquid blood, no.

See page on waste blood.