November 5, 2019


Kevin Webber
The Principles of Pathology Waste

All medical waste generators are required by federal and state law to follow specific guidelines to properly segregate, transport, and dispose of pathology, or laboratory medical waste. Pathology waste is often generated by facilities like veterinary offices, surgical centers, hospitals, and cosmetic surgery centers where tissue or blood specimens are obtained for diagnostics and/or treatment.

principles-pathology-waste_488099749If your facility is a pathology medical waste generator, your staff needs to be aware of the issues associated with laboratory medical waste as well as the importance of waste segregation.

What is Laboratory Medical Waste

Do you and your staff know the difference between hazardous, biohazard, and pathology waste? They’re related, but there are differences. While pathology waste is a type of biohazard and can be contaminated with any type of infectious bodily fluid, it specifically originates from tissue or tissue samples that are examined and tested in a laboratory. That’s why you often hear it referred to as “laboratory waste.”

Pathology waste consists of:

  • Organs
  • Tissues
  • Surgical specimens
  • Bodily fluids from surgeries or autopsies

The broader category of laboratory waste can include human and/or animal pathogens, contaminated disposable items, and infectious animal feces. Pathology waste is a “red bag” biohazard and must be disposed of by incineration.

How is Pathology Waste Produced?

Smaller than anatomical waste, pathology waste is often a portion, part, or slice of tissue or organ. It’s not commonly produced by a physician’s office, but many medical facilities like hospitals, surgery centers, cosmetic surgery offices, and veterinarian clinics generate it.

What are the Risks of Laboratory Medical Waste?

Like all hazardous waste, pathology waste poses serious risks to people both inside and outside your facility, animals, the environment (including the water supply), as well as your facility’s reputation. And failure to properly manage and dispose regulated waste could result in hefty fines and penalties from state and federal authorities.

How is Pathology Waste Handled and Treated?

As the definition of pathology or laboratory waste is continually evolving, it’s important to be up-to-date on federal and state guidelines regarding proper handling and disposal methods. It’s critical for your facility to:

  • Follow the latest guidelines for segregation and labeling of laboratory waste. It should be kept separate from other waste such as sharps and have “incineration only” stickers applied to the container.
  • Review state guidelines to determine if there are additional items that are defined as pathology waste.
  • Verify and follow OSHA’s explicit rules regarding proper labeling and be sure it occurs, as recommended, at the generation point of laboratory waste so the risk of mislabeling is reduced.

The Pathology Waste Solution

Your role in the proper handling and disposal of pathology waste is an important one that should include proper employee training on its handling, segregation, and disposal. From administrative staff to part-time employees, housekeeping staff, and janitorial teams, every staff member must be taught that proper and safe waste handling and segregation is essential to protecting the health of their fellow employees, your facility’s patients, and other staff.

Lack of proper training may result in dangerous situations, including the spread of potentially dangerous pathogens. Clinical administrators or medical office managers should never take shortcuts when it comes to proper segregation of laboratory waste.

Proper pathology waste disposal is a complex and rigorous process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re confused or unsure how to handle pathology waste, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Better yet, work with a medical waste disposal company that provides state-of-the-art options for safe, secure, efficient, and effective laboratory waste solutions that increase safety and reduce costs. Protecting the health of your employees, patients, and the environment depends on it.


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