Ask the expert: How to dispose of biohazard-labeled specimen bags?

By: December 14th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: Is it okay with OSHA to dispose of clear plastic specimen bags with a biohazard label as solid regular trash if there is no visible contamination by blood or OPIM?

A: Specimen bags without visible contamination are not considered regulated medical waste by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a problem disposing of them as regular trash.

While you may be able to determine non-contaminated status of biohazard labeled specimen bags, your waste hauling contractor my not, and the contractor could rightly refuse to accept the bags as solid regular waste. Remember, disposal and processing of regulated or infectious waste is more a state regulatory and waste contact matter, than a federal OSHA concern.

A note on the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center OSHA Standards for Bloodborne Pathogens web page explains:

“Some healthcare facilities use plastic bags to transport specimen containers from patient care areas to in-house laboratories. The healthcare facilities label the plastic bag “biohazard” and dispose of the plastic bag as infectious waste.

If not contaminated, the plastic transport bags are not considered infectious waste and may be disposed of as solid waste. However, if the bags are labeled “biohazard,” healthcare facilities run the risk that the solid waste hauler might refuse to transport the waste because of the belief that the bags are infectious.

Biohazard labeled plastic bags used as secondary containment for internal transport of specimens is not required by OSHA. The labeling exemption, listed in 29 CFR 1910.1030 (d)(2)(xii)(A) of the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens, applies to facilities that handle all specimens with Universal Precautions, provided the containers are recognizable as containing specimens. The exemption applies only while these specimens remain within the facility. If the specimens leave the facility, a label or red color-coding is required. In addition, secondary containers or bags are only required if the primary container is contaminated on the outside.”

What’s the experience of OSHA Healthcare Advisor readers; do biohazard-labeled specimen bags go in red bag or regular trash in your facility. Any suggestions for this problem?


Biohazard-labeled specimen bags go in red bag trash not regular trash. This could be quite confusing to the dept picking up our trash if red biohazard was put in regular trash.

Biohazard-labeled specimen bags go in red bag trash not regular trash. This could be quite confusing to the dept picking up our trash if red biohazard was put in regular trash

Is there a short list of common OSHA violations?even a long list of essential OSHA Standards.Y

By David LaHoda on December 20th, 2011 at 8:44 am

See Bloodborne Pathogens Violations in Dental Practices and Bloodborne Pathogens Violations in Medical Practices on the Tools page. Also, see the blog post “Ask the expert: OSHA standards in medical and dental practices.”

Causes significant issues with the waste hauler and subjects you to potential investigation by local or state officials.

I have seen whole truckloads of “trash” returned because of a single biohazard bag. See David’s article on what happened to two California hospitals for improper medical waste disposal.

A large issue we have is getting employees to not send non medical items in biohazard bags.

Our facility uses transport bags with the biohazard symbol to tranport specimens within our buiding using a pneumatic tube system and also transporting specimens from the in town and out of town clinics-unless these are visibly bloody they are put in the regular trash and we haqve not had any problem

if the bio hazardous packing material is in a red bag and then in the box and everything is marked properly can I transport it across the street to our other facility to be picked up by stericycle


Leave a Comment


« | Home | »

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail

  • test
  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar