Ask the expert: Should biohazard bins be kept behind closed doors?

By: August 27th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: We are based in Colorado. Do our red bins for biohazard waste need to be locked in a closet or if it is OK to keep them behind a closed door that is not necessarily locked?

A: There is no specific OSHA regulation that requires medical waste to be locked in a closet, and in looking at the Colorado state public health regulations, it appears that there is no specific requirement to keep medical waste in a locked closet on that count either. If there is a relationship with a local hospital, it may be worth checking with them to see if there is a specific requirement (if there is one anywhere, it would be in the state regulations as there are none at the national/federal level), but it looks like a closed door will suffice.

Now, I will complicate things just a little bit by saying that if you have clinic settings that provide care and services to at risk populations like pediatric and/or behavioral health patients, then you might be better off locking the closet to ensure their safety. It’s definitely a judgment call, but there are certainly instances in which erring on the side of caution is more than appropriate.

–Steve MacArthur

Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant for The Greeley Company, a division of HCPro. He brings 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro’s Hospital Safety Director’s Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety.


By Judy Ruggeri on August 28th, 2012 at 10:25 am

I have an unrelated OSHA question. If a product is modified by the manufacturer, the manufacturer or supplier is required to update the MSDS in what period of time?

By Bruce Cunha on August 28th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Most Clinic settings do not generate a lot of biohazardous material. We eliminated most of our exam room biohazard containers and moved to a red bag in a drawer. If the exam generates medical waste, the assistang gets the red bag from the drawer and the material is put in it and taken out of the room when the exam is over.

In our evaluation of medical waste, we found that when you have a container in the room, the majority of items going into the biomedical waste really did not belong there.

Your example of a pediatrics area would be a good one. With the exception of wound care, what would go into a biohazard container from a pediatric exam?

Sharps containers would be the only item I would want out of the reach of little fingers.

By jane burnworth on October 18th, 2012 at 8:11 am

I have the same issue with our biohazard containers in the exam rooms. Patients will toss coffe cups or whatever in them. To place small biohazard bags in exam room drawers would eliminate this problem. Is this approved by OSHA?

By jane burnworth on October 18th, 2012 at 8:14 am

I have the same issues with the biohazard containers in our exam rooms. Patients will toss coffee cups or whatever in them even though they are clearly marked. To use small biohazard bags would certainly help. Is this approved by OSHA

By marshall sornik on December 12th, 2012 at 10:23 am

In New York State the NYSDOH Part 70.2-2 regulation requires an area where regulated medical waste is stored to be secured and labeled with the international bio hazard symbol. I would check your local state regulations to ensure you are compliant with regard to this issue.

By John Decker on August 6th, 2013 at 9:11 am

This is an interesting article. I did not know that sharps containers should be kept or locked behind closed doors. I am glad I read this because I am not familiar with OSHA regulations but even if there is no rule, that may be a good idea. I was working at my hospital the other night and when I was cleaning up, I noticed an overflowing sharp container. This is very dangerous because a few of the used syringes were on the ground. Thank god these contains are leak proff because there were a lot of other materials in there as well including pasteur pipettes. I think it is very important to educate hospital employees about the persuasions to take when dealing with biohazardous materials.

There is some issues with ‘securing’ biowaste containers. Physicians practices usually have sharps containers in the exam room. The whole purpose being that they be at hand when a sharps needs to be discarded. He or she would not be expected to carry the syringe or whatever out of the room and possibly through an occupied hall or such then unlock a door and go in to dispose of it.
You couldn’t put sharps in a red bag. So the only thing I can imagine would the sharps container being in a lockable cabinet all by itself because dirty couldn’t be put in where the cabinets have clean supplies or gowns etc.

We are a small critical access hospital and our Human Resources department maintains our injury logs and keeps a copy of all injury report forms. Is there any reason why a copy of the injury report should be kept in an employee’s health file, or can it just be kept in Human Resources department?

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By Alyssa Serle on June 2nd, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Nice topic, for me to avoid injury and spreading of infections that can cause serious health conditions where in most common infections are Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), we must dispose our sharp objects properly. In other words, no matter how zip it is, it should always be keep properly away from everything not just behind the door.

Impact Hygiene – Sharps

By Denise smith on March 8th, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Our associated ASC would like to take one of our offices to store biohazard waste (state of WA). We are looking for an alternative storage solution. IT suggested a server room that contains servers but has a lot of floor space for storage of biohazard bins. Are there any rules that indicate we cannot storage biohazard in the server room? (it has a locked door and no patient access). Denise

By Hilton R. LaSage on September 11th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Can medical waste be stored in a janitorial closet used by housekeeping in a separate locked container until it is picked up by Stericycle.

By Bruce McDowell on March 1st, 2018 at 7:43 pm

I am a courier with a health care provider and transport biohazard containers with instruments to be cleaned in containers that have been contaminated on the exterior by gloved personnel placing contaminated items in it.
I then place this container in a van along with other medical supplies going to other clinics that are not contaminated. Should these not be kept separate?
South Dakota

By biohazard bin on March 9th, 2018 at 1:56 pm

hello I have a question, how far or where should the big red biohazard bins should be kept away from you .



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