Tips regarding medical waste

Tips regarding medical waste

(Consult the Medical Waste Management Act for a comprehensive listing of requirements).  You can also use the Medical Waste Review Checklist that we developed.

Containers for solid medical waste:

  • Use red bags that are labeled with the words "Biohazardous Waste" or the universal biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard".
  • Red bags must not contain chemotherapy waste.  (See the Medical Waste Management Act for guidance on disposal of chemotherapy waste).
  • Pathology waste (animal carcasses and gross tissues) should not be mixed with regular laboratory-generated medical waste.
  • Sharps must not be placed directly into medical waste bags (they should be placed in appropriate sharps containers).
  • Secondary containers must be leak-proof, have rigid walls, and have a securable lid.  A five-gallon paint bucket with a securable lid makes a good secondary container for small to medium size medical waste bags.  32-gallon trash cans with tight-fitting lids are often appropriate for large medical waste bags.
  • Secondary containers must be labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard" on the lid and on the sides, so that the label is visible from any lateral view.  For the biohazard symbol labels on the side, usually three equally spaced labels is adequate for a round container and four for a square container (one on each face).
  • Secondary containers must be sealed and transported to a medical waste accumulation site when full (or held in the laboratory where the waste was generated if applicable) or within seven days of start of accumulation, whichever comes first.
  • The secondary waste receptacle lid must always be secured; except when opened to receive medical waste, so that contents will not spill if the container is tipped or knocked over.
  • Secondary containers must be kept clean and in good repair.

Accumulation sites:

  • Room must be locked and accessible only to those who have a legitimate business need (e.g. medical waste generators, medical waste haulers, accumulation site manager).
  • Must be properly sheltered if outdoors.
  • Should be used only for medical waste accumulation (exception accumulation sites within laboratories).
  • Postings must include a biohazard label and the site manager's contact information should be current and legible.
  • Post the "caution" statement (both in English and Spanish) provided by the CA Medical Waste Management Act (can be found on the UC Davis Medical Waste Management Plan template).
  • The accumulation site must have a biological spill cleanup kit which contains the appropriate PPE and unexpired components.  Spill cleanup instruction must also be available (refer to EH&S SafetyNet #127 "Biological and Biohazardous Spill Response").
  • The area must be neat and tidy.
  • All waste in the accumulation receptacle must be in medical waste bags or medical waste sharps containers (as appropriate); no uncontained waste allowed in the receptacles.
  • There must be no evidence of liquids in the bags or receptacles.
  • When transporting medical waste to an accumulation site, be sure to seal the bag with a knot or zip tie so that its contents will not spill out, and transport the red bag in a leak-proof, lidded, labeled secondary container.  If there is an entry log for the accumulation site, please add an entry for your waste.

Record keeping:

  • Accumulation site managers and custodians must retain records of medical waste treatment for two years.

Can I autoclave my own medical waste and dispose it to the landfill?

No. The Medical Waste Management Act allows medical waste inactivation by laboratory staff but only in autoclaves that have been inspected and approved by the California Department of Public Health. CDPH autoclave approval requires careful record-keeping, maintenance programs, and frequent sterilization equipment validations with biological indicators. There are no autoclaves at UC Davis that meet this requirement. 

Related: Setting-up a medical waste accumulation site