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Blog     Healthcare Solutions     April 2015     Understanding OSHA Color Coding & Biohazard Label Requirements
Healthcare Solutions 29 April, 2015

Understanding OSHA Color Coding & Biohazard Label Requirements

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What are OSHA Label Standards for Biohazard Waste in my Healthcare Facility?

The 5 areas relate to bloodborne pathogens, or BBP for short. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) defines bloodborne pathogens as infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard outlines the regulations for biohazard labeling and color-coding.
These five areas to focus on for biohazard labeling are:
  • Regulated medical waste containers & other containers
  • Sharps containers
  • Contaminated laundry
  • Specimens
  • Equipment
Let’s explore each area in more detail.

Regulated Medical Waste Containers and Other Containers

According to OSHA, warning labels must be affixed to:
  • Containers of regulated waste
  • Refrigerators and freezers containing blood or other potentially infectious material
  • Other containers used to store, transport or ship blood or other potentially infectious materials
Exceptions include:
  • Containers of blood, blood components, or blood products that are labeled and have been released for transfusion
  • Individual containers of blood or other potentially infectious materials that are placed in a labeled container during storage, transport, shipment or disposal
  • Regulated waste that has been decontaminated

Sharps Containers

As you might expect, sharps containers must also be labeled or color-coded in accordance with the requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

Contaminated Laundry

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard also requires contaminated laundry to be placed and transported in labeled or color-coded bags. When a facility utilizes Universal Precautions in the handling of all soiled laundry, alternative labeling or color-coding is sufficient if it permits all employees to recognize the containers as requiring compliance with Universal Precautions. When a facility ships contaminated laundry off-site to a second facility which does not utilize Universal Precautions in the handling of all laundry, the facility generating the contaminated laundry must place such laundry in labeled or color-coded bags or containers.


Specimens of blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be placed in a container which prevents leakage during collection, handling, processing, storage, transport, or shipping. The container for storage, transport, or shipping shall be labeled or color-coded and closed prior to being stored, transported, or shipped.


Equipment that may become contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be examined prior to servicing or shipping and shall be decontaminated as necessary, unless the employer can demonstrate that decontamination of such equipment or portions of such equipment is not feasible, according to OSHA. A readily observable biohazard label shall be attached to the equipment stating which portions remain contaminated.
Ensure that you have biohazard labeling or color-coding, as necessary, in these five areas and in other areas of your facility that fall under the guidelines of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard 1910.1030. In practice, most facilities typically use both biohazard labeling and color-coding in most cases. Need help?  Learn how Stericycle can help your organization remain in compliance with OSHA regulations.

Posted by Stericycle