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Handling & Transporting Soiled Instruments

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

The process of handling and transporting contaminated medical and surgical instruments is often misunderstood by end-users, especially in clinical areas. The lack of proper handling, storage, and transportation is often cited by State and CMS accreditation surveyors. Below are regulations and guidelines that will help you with your compliance with this process.

Point of Use Care has become a focal point for the Joint Commission for several years now. Gross bioburden on instruments should be removed during and at the end of use; a wetting agent (e.g., enzymatic spray, water, specially formulated product) should be used to keep instruments moist until reprocessing occurs. Completing the point of use care aids the cleaning process. Contact with bioburden can break down the instrument protective passivation layer and reduce the longevity of the instrumentation. Another benefit of the point of use care is the reduction in the formation of biofilm layers. Instruments should be transported to the decontamination room as soon as possible for reprocessing.

The OSHA's Blood Borne Pathogen Standard 1910.1030(d)(2)(viii) states that " Immediately or as soon as possible after use, contaminated reusable sharps shall be placed in appropriate containers until properly reprocessed. These containers shall be: puncture-resistant, labeled, or color-coded in accordance with this standard, leakproof on the sides and bottom, and in accordance with the requirements set forth in paragraph (d)(4)(ii)(E) for reusable sharps. AAMI's ST79: 2017 recommends "separation is best done at the point of use by persons aware of the potential for injury from sharps and the potential infection hazards of the contaminated items." OSHA also states, " Reusable sharps that are contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials shall not be stored or processed in a manner that requires employees to reach by hand into the containers where these sharps have been placed."

When instruments cannot be processed immediately, storage of instruments should be kept in a location where the public cannot access them. They should be in a locked container or locked cabinet; the manufacturer's instructions for use should be followed for the contacted time when using wetting agents. It has been noted that enzymatic solutions can cause harm to stainless steel instruments during long storage periods.

Following the Federal regulations and national guidelines creates a safer environment for staff, patients, and visitors.

At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.

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