Handling clinical waste

Explain the principles of safe handling of infected or soiled linen and clinical waste

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Infections can be spread though contact with items that have bodily fluids on them such as clinical waste, soiled linen or used needles.

To reduce the risk of an infection spreading, it is important that you understand and follow your employer’s agreed ways of working for waste disposal.

Clinical waste is rubbish that has been used in the provision of healthcare. This can include pads, dressing, gloves etc. It should be kept separate from regular waste, usually by storing it in yellow or orange plastic sacks that are tied at the top. It should also be disposed of using specialist facilities.

Soiled linen can include clothes, bedding, towels and other items made from fabrics. PPE such as a disposable apron and gloves must be worn when handling soiled linen and it should be washed separately from other linen. Contaminated linen may be identified using colour-coded bags or sacks. Bedding and towels should be put on a hot wash to decontaminate whilst clothes can be washed on a 40 degree C – 50 degree C cycle followed by a hot tumble dry or iron.

Your employer may provide sharps boxes to store sharp waste such as needles or blades. They should not be filled passed their maximum point and the temporary lid closure should be engaged when not being used. They should be stored in a safe place and out of the way of vulnerable people. The label should clearly state the names and dates of the persons who assembled the empty bin and closed the full bin.