Housekeeping and Infectious Waste Management

A. General Procedures

An infectious waste is an untreated solid or liquid waste capable of causing an infectious disease via an exposure to a pathogenic organism of sufficient virulence and dosage through a portal of entry in a susceptible host. Items such as band aids, diabetic test strips, vomit, or tools that have minimal bodily fluid on them typically are not considered infectious waste, but should still be handled with care.  All infectious waste shall be identified with a biohazard symbol and contained within appropriate sharps or biohazard waste (red/orange) bags.

Most infectious wastes generated at Pacific Lutheran University are the following:

  • Sharps (i.e. needles with syringes, scalpel blades, glass slides, etc.)
  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents (i.e. blood specimen tubes, petri dishes, culture plates)
  • Blood, blood-saturated gauze, or bandages
  • Potentially infectious soiled items including, but not limited to, mops, brooms, towels, & other cleaning items

Universal Precautions shall be used when handling infectious waste materials.

B. Sharps Management

Sharps will be segregated and collected in closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof sharps containers. Hypodermic needles, syringes with needles attached, and potentially contaminated broken glass and blades are all examples of sharps.

Sharps containers are found in the following locations: Student Health Services, Campus Safety, Biology Department, Facilities Management, the Athletic Training Room, Nursing Skills Labs, and residence rooms where needed.

Sharps pickup and disposal supplies are provided to Campus Safety and Groundskeeping workers for sharps found on PLU grounds.

C. Autoclaves

The Department of Biology maintains an autoclave for onsite treatment of infectious waste produced in laboratory operations.  The Student Health Center maintains an autoclave for onsite sterilization of reusable instruments.  A written operating procedure, along with a log of each autoclave waste cycle is posted and maintained by each Department (Appendix A and Appendix B), and is followed by all personnel operating the autoclave.  The Biology Lab Manager and Student Health Center staff maintain records of the autoclave operating parameters, load disposal records, and spore testing results for a minimum of three years.  Spore testing occurs monthly, with test vials from Dept. of Biology sent to a third-party lab on a quarterly basis to ensure sterilization is occurring as expected.  Non-sharps biohazardous waste that is processed via the autoclave may be disposed of in trash containers.

Both sharps containers and bagged infectious waste that is not autoclaved shall be collected in properly labeled (with the words Infectious Waste or the international biohazard symbol) trash containers lined with a red or orange plastic bag. Infectious waste collection containers are located in Student Health Services, Athletic Training Room, and Rieke Science Center.  The central collection area is at the Health Center where waste is removed by infectious waste contractor on a monthly basis.

Infectious waste collection containers shall not be used for non-infectious wastes. In the event that the exterior of the infectious waste container becomes contaminated, the container shall be decontaminated using a hospital grade disinfectant or sanitizer or placed in another leakproof container. Sharps containers should be closed and prepared for transport or autoclaving when they reach 2/3 full.  Overfilled sharps containers can be more easily spilled or their contents can more readily puncture their containment.

Filled infectious waste bags or sharps containers may be stored on site for only 7 days prior to treatment or collection for treatment. Additional requirements go into effect after the 7- day period has passed. Please call Facilities Management or Environmental Health & Safety for immediate, unscheduled disposal service.

Each department where blood or OPIM are stored or handled must have appropriate cleaning and decontamination procedures in place, based on the materials handled at that location and their associated hazards.  All contaminated surfaces and tools will be decontaminated immediately after use, with an appropriate disinfectant (and following the label instructions that disinfectant to ensure efficacy).

Please note:  many disinfectants, including bleach solutions, require a 10-minute dwell (wet) time to be effective.