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Infectious Medical Waste

Definition of Infectious Waste
Management of Infectious Medical Waste
OSHA Regulations
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines


Definition of Infectious Waste

An "infectious waste" means waste capable of producing disease. Infectious waste includes but is not limited to:

  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals,
  • Human pathological waste, including tissues, organs, and body parts removed during surgery or an autopsy;
  • Free-flowing waste human blood and products of blood, including serum, plasma, and other blood components and items soaked or saturated with blood; and
  • Sharps that have been used in patient care, medical research, or industrial laboratories.

Management of Infectious Waste

The following rules apply to the storage, transportation and treatment of infectious waste:

Segregation: Infectious waste must be separated from ordinary waste at the point of origin and stored until the waste is rendered noninfectious or transported off-site.

Packaging/containers. Infectious waste must be stored in containers with biohazard warning labels. The following rules apply:

  • Sharps must be contained for storage, transportation, treatment, and subsequent disposal in leakproof, rigid, puncture-resistant containers that must be taped closed or capped securely to prevent loss of contents.
  • Infectious waste other than sharps must be contained in moisture-proof disposable containers or bags of a strength sufficient to prevent ripping, tearing, or bursting under normal conditions of use. The bags must be securely tied to prevent leakage or expulsion of solid or liquid wastes during storage, handling, and transportation.

Storage. To inhibit the spread of infectious agents, infectious waste must be stored prior to treatment in a secured area that prevents access by unauthorized personnel and must be clearly marked or labeled as infectious.

Handling. Handling of infectious waste must be done in a manner to prevent compaction or other mechanical manipulation that might cause the release of infectious agents.

Treatment/disposal. Treatment and disposal of infectious waste must be accomplished through the following methods:

  • Incineration with complete combustion that reduces infectious waste to carbonized or mineralized ash.
  • Steam sterilization that renders infectious waste noninfectious. Steam-sterilized waste must be labeled identifying it as such with heat sensitive tape or bagged in marked autoclavable bags.
  • Sterilization by standard chemical techniques or by any scientifically proven techniques approved by state and federal authorities.   Chemically treated waste or waste otherwise treated must be appropriately labeled.
  • Liquid or semisolid infectious waste may be discharged into a sewer system that provides secondary treatment or into a primary treatment sewage system if waste is first sterilized by chemical treatment. A subsurface disposal system installed and operated in accordance with state or local sanitary regulations is, for the purpose of this subsection (b), a sewer system providing secondary treatment.

If infectious waste has been rendered noninfectious by one of the methods listed, it is no longer biologically hazardous, it may be mixed with and disposed of with ordinary waste in the following manner:

  • Infectious waste may be transported by the generator, a municipal solid waste service, or a regulated commercial hauler to an offsite treatment facility if the waste is confined in a leakproof, noncompacting, fully enclosed vehicle compartment.
  • Infectious waste that has been treated by one of the methods in subsection (4) may be disposed of in a properly operated and licensed landfill.

Training. An employee who handles or manages infectious waste must receive training provided by the employer that is adequate to ensure safe performance of duties.

Contingency plan.  Generators and transporters of infectious waste shall develop a contingency plan to handle spills and equipment failure.

OSHA Regulations

In addition to the state medical waste environmental regulations there are some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules that apply to medical/infectious waste. Montana is one of 26 states covered entirely by the federal OSHA program. This program is operated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA rules (Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standards) impact various aspects of medical/infectious waste, including management of sharps, requirements for containers that hold or store medical/infectious waste, labeling of medical/infectious waste bags/containers, and employee training. These requirements can be found in the VetCA section entitled OSHA Standards for Regulated Waste.

Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines

Montana Code 75-1—1005: Management Standards for Infectious Waste


Montana Department of Environmental Quality

More Information

None located.

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