Proper Disposal of Bloodborne Pathogens in Funeral Homes, Hospitals, and Veterinarian Hospitals
In the context of bloodborne pathogen waste, a “sharp” is any object with sharp edges or points that can puncture skin. The following items are considered sharps:
- Hypodermic needles
- Auto injectors
- Infusion sets
- Connection needles/sets
- Disposable scalpels
Sharps can contain pathogens and contaminants that pose a serious risk to human health and the environment. In this blog, we discuss the hazards of improper sharps disposal.
OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, has provisions for the protection of employees during the containment, storage, and transport of regulated waste other than contaminated sharps [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B)]. The bloodborne pathogens standard defines regulated waste as liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM); contaminated items that would release blood or OPIM in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or OPIM and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or OPIM [29 CFR 1910.1030(b)].
A waste container should not look like this:
A waste container should look like this:
Fines can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here are some examples from MedPro
Veterinarian Fined $20,000 for Non-Pathogen Waste
Can your practice get fined for non-pathogen waste? You bet it can. In a decisive move, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management hit a veterinary clinic with a $20,000 fine for disposing of non-pathogen medical waste at a landfill. Officials concluded that the veterinary clinic couldn’t actually guarantee that the needles in the waste weren’t contaminated or were totally safe. In other words, they should have treated it as hazardous regardless of their judgement.
Funeral Director Fined $90,000
Funeral directors be warned: improper waste disposal could cost you dearly. For one Pennsylvania director, the penalty came in the form of a $90,000 fine and the loss of his mortuary license. The director in question was found guilty of improperly storing rotting medical waste in trash bags. The waste wasn’t sorted properly or distinguished in any way from the regular trash stored in the same place.
$537,900 Fine for Medical Waste in Landfill
In 2016, a Pennsylvania hospital group was fined over half a million dollars when residents near a landfill spotted red biohazard bags amid regular trash. A two-year DEP investigation uncovered several violations. Apart from the fines, the DEP ordered the hospital group to re-train its employees. The group also hired a medical waste disposal company to ensure future compliance.
In general, regulated wastes, other than contaminated sharps, must be placed in containers which are: (i) Closable; (ii) Constructed to contain all contents and prevent leakage of fluids during handling, storage, transport or shipping; (iii) Labeled or color-coded in accordance with paragraphs (g)(1)(i); (iv) Closed prior to removal to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling, storage, transport, or shipping [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B)(1)(i)-(iv)].