When transporting any hazardous materials or hazardous waste, it is important to know your materials, their characteristics and what containers are designed and approved for those materials. Infectious substances and materials always face very stringent packaging and transportation regulations, and, given the current challenge facing our world population with COVID-19, it is no wonder that healthcare organizations and transportation professionals are exercising caution and continuously checking in on the latest guidance for COVID-19 waste disposal.
For weeks now, red bags of medical waste laden with coronavirus-tained materials have been flowing from hospitals treating affected patients. But, according to current information on the organization’s website, the CDC reassures us that “medical waste (trash) coming from healthcare facilities treating COVID19 patients is no different than waste coming from facilities without COVID-19 patients. […] There is no evidence to suggest that facility waste needs any additional disinfection.”
While routine procedures seem to be fine for the trash coming from these facilities, what about other COVID-19 tainted materials such as specimens, cultures and isolates that need to be transported? To provide guidance in that area, PHMSA has developed a COVID-19 Quick Reference page.
Furthermore, one can consult The Department of Transportation (DOT). Responsible for the regulation of packaging and transport of materials under Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), and determinations made under the HMR in the context of transportation (such as the classification of wastes as ‘Infectious Substances’ or ‘Regulated MEdical Waste’), the DOT is continuously reviewing and updating their recommendations per the CDC. Of note, the CDC and OSHA do not consider the COVID-19 virus a DOT Category A Infectious Substance.
The classification of wastes as Infectious Substances or Regulated Medical Waste can be found under Title 49 of the Code of Federal regulations section 173.134 Class 6, Division 6.2. Regulations specific to steel drums, such as the steel hazardous waste containers manufactured by Skolnik, are in chapter 178.601.
As the current situation with COVID-19 unfolds and the response efforts progress, so too may the regulations surrounding the packaging and transportation of potentially tainted materials. Please defer to current CDC and WHO recommendations and consider asking a dangerous goods consultant if you have further questions.