Focus: Fire-Life Safety / Column

Regulations, Codes & Standards Q&A: Red Bag Waste Containers

By Brad Keyes / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
October 21, 2020

Q: What is the requirement for red bag waste containers while in use on the floors? My lab has red bag waste containers throughout the entire section. The containers itself in some instances are a plain tan garbage can with a red biohazard bag insert. Some are the very small table top sharps containers with small red bags, none of which have a lid or label on the container itself. I guess my question is, do hazardous waste bins like that in a lab require a lid or the biohazard label on the can itself? All my searches provide information on storage, but not while in use.


A: Federal OSHA BBP standard requires a biohazard label on all containers for biohazard waste.  States also may have rules that are more strict than Federal OSHA. (I do not know if you are in a state with a State OSHA plan.) It is my understanding that all biohazard containers out on the floors should have a cover to help prevent unauthorized access.  The outside container can be any color as long as it has the red/orange and black label on the container.  Red bags should always be used. 


I come from a lab background.  Lab biohazard containers can be open during use because the entire lab area is restricted to authorized personnel and the lab area is considered biohazardous. The lab containers may be open but should be protected from tipping over or spilling.  All outside containers for biohazardous waste should have a biohazardous label on it, even if you are using a red bag inside.


On another note, red bags or red containers should never be used for anything other than biohazardous waste.


This answer was provided by Marge McFarlane, PhD, from Superior Performance, LLC

Brad Keyes, CHSP, is the owner of KEYES Life Safety Compliance, and his expertise is in the management of the Life Safety Program, including the Environment of Care and Emergency Management programs.

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