Definition of Regulated Medical Waste

Waste generated in healthcare facilities may be categorized as office waste, hazardous waste, universal waste, and medical waste (Table 2).9 However, segregating waste into these categories can be challenging because jurisdictional definitions, especially for medical waste (e.g., non-infectious versus infectious medical waste), vary from state to state. The OMWM can consult the State-by-State Regulated Medical Waste Resource Locator for jurisdictional definitions of medical waste.7

Table 2. Categories of Waste Generated in Healthcare Facilities.9
Office waste
  • Common refuse
  • Recyclable waste
Hazardous waste
  • Digital scanner, eraser, and phospher plates
  • Lead apron
  • Laptop computer w/software
Universal waste
  • Fluorescent lamps
  • Batteries
Medical waste
  • Common (non-infectious) medical waste
  • Regulated (infectious) medical waste

OSHA defines RMW as “the presence or reasonably anticipated presence of blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) containing pathogens in sufficient numbers and of sufficient virulence that they may cause infection in susceptible hosts when exposed to the waste.”4 Blood means whole blood, blood components, and products made of blood. OPIM includes all body fluids (including saliva), and anatomical and microbiological wastes.

Based on the OSHA definition, RMW generated in oral healthcare settings may include (1) liquid or semi-liquid blood and OPIM; (2) contaminated items that would release blood or OPIM in a liquid or semiliquid state if compressed; (3) items caked with dried blood or OPIM and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; (4) contaminated sharps; (5) pathological waste; and (6) microbiological waste.4