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Contaminated Materials

Contaminated Work Environments

Housekeeping staff and can be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM) through contaminated work environments.

OSHA requires clean and sanitary work environments to prevent contact with blood or OPIM. The employer must determine and implement an appropriate written schedule for cleaning and decontamination methods.

This written schedule must be based on the following:

  • location within the facility
  • type of surfaces to be cleaned
  • type of soil present
  • the tasks or procedures to be performed in the area

Contaminated Equipment

Employees can be exposed to blood or OPIM through contact with the following:

  • equipment and working surfaces
  • protective coverings
  • reusable containers
  • glassware

Equipment and Working Surfaces


All equipment and working surfaces must be cleaned and decontaminated after contact with blood or OPIM.

  • Contaminated equipment, such as IV poles, require labels or tags in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(1)(i)(H).
  • Such equipment, if grossly contaminated, must be cleaned with soap and water solution before decontamination. Some anti-microbial products will not work in the presence of blood, which interferes with the sterilizing process.

Protective Coverings

Protective coverings, such as plastic wrap or aluminum foil, must be removed and replaced as soon as possible, when they become overtly contaminated, or at the end of a work shift if they may have become contaminated during the shift [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(B)].

Reusable Containers


All bins, pails, cans, and similar receptacles intended for reuse which have a reasonable likelihood for becoming contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious material shall be inspected and decontaminated on a regularly scheduled basis.

It must be cleaned and decontaminated immediately or as soon as feasible upon visible contamination [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(C)].


Broken glassware which may be contaminated must not be picked up directly with hands; use mechanical means, such as use a brush and dustpan, tongs or forceps [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(D)].

Contaminated Laundry

Employees can be exposed to blood and other potentially infectious agents from handling contaminated laundry during handling in utility rooms.

Some facilities allow employees to rinse contaminated laundry or laundry that might contain sharps, in dirty utility "hopper" rooms, instead of simply putting it in a container and then transporting it to the laundry.

The Bloodborne Pathogen Standard requires the following:

  • Employees must bag and handle contaminated laundry at the location where it was used.
  • Contaminated laundry, however, shall not be sorted or rinsed in the location of use. It must also be transported to the laundry for decontamination in bags or containers labeled or color-coded. When universal precautions are used in the handling of soiled laundry, alternative labeling or color-coding is sufficient. This is only the case if the labeling allows all employees to recognize the containers as requiring compliance with universal precautions.

For more in-depth information on the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, please see OSHAcademy course 655 Bloodborne Pathogens in the Workplace.

Recommended Practices


There are several good work practice controls your employer can implement. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use melt away bags (dissolvable) for the bagging process. Melt away bags can be thrown directly into washers without having to unload or remove contaminated laundry from bags.
  • Rinsing soiled laundry in utility rooms is acceptable, if it is not contaminated with blood, OPIM, or does not contain sharps.
  • The ergonomic stressors that can occur with lifting, reaching, rinsing, and transporting wet heavy laundry must also be addressed. A lift or transfer device for the lifting of these materials is recommended.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. When should you NOT rinse soiled laundry in a utility room?

2. Your employer must determine and implement a (n)________ schedule for cleaning and decontamination methods.

3. A cleaning schedule must be based on which of the following aspects?

4. How can you avoid punctures from improperly discarded syringes when transporting laundry?

5. Contaminated equipment must be cleaned with _____ before decontamination.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.