As a matter of fact, there aren’t any Federal infectious medical waste disposal regulations at this time. This issue was left for each State to decide what their regulations will be.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard does not address this issue either.
In California, the storage times are different for biohazardous waste disposal and sharps disposal.
“A facility that generates less than 20 pounds of biohazardous waste per month may store it for 30 days.”
That means pickup for a small medical waste generator should be scheduled for about once a month.
“The waste may be stored for up to 90 days if kept at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below.”
Good storage habits may allow a less frequent pickup schedule.
Good storage habits would mean storing the medical waste containers in a place that is easily cleaned, not permeable (in case of spills) and made of durable materials that would provide protection from water, rain and wind so the containers remain dependably intact. Good storage would keep the containers in a place with limited access, preferably in a place where only trained employees can enter, so that the chance of damage, leakage or spills is minimal.
Good storage would be a place where the floor is not carpeted, has no open seams, and if there are floor drains, they must discharge to a sanitary sewer disposal system. The area should be kept clean and well-maintained, be in good repair, and if there are biohazardous waste containers in there, the international biohazard symbol needs to be posted at the entry.
Once a medical waste disposal box is filled, it needs to be packaged. Then, it should be picked up within 30 days. The countdown begins once the box is packaged.
However, sharps disposal containers have a different time frame. They can remain in place until they are ready to be changed, which is just slightly before the level reaches the “full” line. So, if you are a generator of mainly sharps disposal, like a tattoo parlor, the frequency of the medical waste pick-up would depend on the frequency of your sharps disposal containers reaching the full lines.
Hospitals and Nursing Homes are under other State regulations that require biohazard and regular trash to be removed every day or sooner, if needed. This is to protect patients and visitors, who are also at risk of exposure, especially little children, who are curious and may try to check out any unfamiliar things in their environment. Other people at risk for contamination and infection are support service workers. Cleaning personnel and laundry workers are the first people exposed to medical waste that is improperly disposed of or left around.
(Again, the sharps disposal containers are not included in the daily removal requirement.)
If you’re a small medical waste disposal generator, and you’re still not sure how often to schedule pick-up for your medical waste, here are some indicators:
To determine how frequently your facility needs to schedule pickup by a medical waste disposal company, you should weigh the amount of biohazardous waste (sharps not included) that your business generates in a month, and call to consult with our OSHA-trained experts.
You’ll know if your medical waste has been lying around for too long. One indicator that it’s beyond time to schedule a pickup is odor. Odors can indicate improper storage of your medical waste disposal (like a hot, moist boiler room), or be indicative of the type of waste you’re disposing of, but it’s a pretty reliable yardstick for the frequency of your pickup.
Don’t wait until it becomes that clear, though. Contact us for help to determine how often you should be scheduling pickups before the situation gets smelly.