The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard in 1991 to protect workers in the health sector and related occupations from the risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is the employer's responsibility to determine the existence of regulated waste, not based on actual blood volume, but rather on the possibility of releasing blood. When it comes to disposing of biohazard waste, OSHA has certain regulations that must be followed. For example, sharps containers should be easily accessible to employees and should be located as close as possible to the immediate area where sharp objects are used.
In certain areas, such as correctional facilities and psychiatric units, it may be difficult to place containers for sharp objects in the area of immediate use. If a mobile cart is used in these areas, an alternative would be to lock the container for sharp objects in the cart. Sharp object containers are made from a variety of products, from cardboard to plastic, as long as they meet the definition of a container for sharp objects. For more information on sharp-object containers and their proper location, see Selecting, Evaluating, and Using Sharp Object Containers, a guidance document published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
When it comes to labeling biohazard waste containers, OSHA requires that the background should be fluorescent orange or orange-red or predominant, with symbols and letters in a contrasting color. The label must be an integral part of the container or be attached as close to the container as possible by means of rope, wire, adhesive, or other method to prevent its loss or unintentional removal. Plastic transport bags that are uncontaminated are not considered infectious waste and can be disposed of as solid waste. However, if the bags carry the biohazard label, health centers run the risk that the solid waste carrier will refuse to transport the waste because they believe that the bags are infectious.
When shipping or transporting biohazard waste or samples, OSHA does not require plastic bags labeled as a biohazard to be used as secondary containment for the internal transportation of samples. The labeling exemption applies only as long as these specimens remain inside the facility. If samples leave the facility, a red color code or label is required. In addition, secondary containers or bags are only needed if the main container is contaminated outside.
When it comes to training employees who handle biohazardous waste and other hazardous materials, all employees with occupational exposure should receive initial and annual training. Personnel providers maintain an ongoing relationship with their employees but another employer (their customer) creates and controls the hazard; there is a shared responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from workplace hazards. The client employer is primarily responsible for such protection but personnel providers must provide general training described in the standard while client employers are responsible for providing site-specific training. OSHA's biohazardous waste regulations protect workers whose job is to handle biohazardous waste and other hazardous materials.