It is the responsibility of all St John WA staff to manage clinical and related wastes generated during patient care. Management of waste is outlined within the Environmental Protection Act 1986, related regulations, and the Environmental Protection Controlled Waste Regulations 2004. As a contracted service of the WA Department of Health, the organisation and all staff must comply with this legislation.

This guideline outlines each type of healthcare waste and how to responsibly manage each type in a way that minimises the risk to the environment, to staff and the community. Standard Precautions apply when handling any healthcare waste, with a risk assessment performed to ensure transmission precautions are used as necessary. Clinical staff should have received education and training before handling healthcare waste to ensure appropriate handling of each type of waste.

Types of waste managed at St John WA include:

General waste

Care provided in the home mostly produces general waste, which can be disposed of with other household or general waste. Any high-risk waste, such as clinical waste or sharps, should be appropriately handled and disposed as outlined in the respective guidelines.

Clinical waste

Clinical waste is defined as waste that has potential to cause disease or injury and includes sharps, tissue waste and products contaminated with blood or bodily fluids.

Clinical waste should be segregated from all other waste at the point of generation, ensuring safe handling and disposal to minimise harm to staff and the community.

Clinical waste should be sealed in a clearly labelled, leakproof bag or container and transported to a central disposal area (e.g hospital), at the earliest opportunity. Ideally it should be collected into the provided yellow clinical waste bags, with displayed biohazard symbol. Once it has been transported into the central disposal area it should not require any further individual handling.

Central disposal areas differ based on geographical location and the resources available. In the metropolitan area and larger country towns, all hospitals have clinical waste disposal areas. In regional areas, creation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the local subcentre and small healthcare facilities (e.g. GP, Pharmacy and Nursing Post) may be required to ensure clinical waste is disposed of in appropriate central disposal area. If there is no available facility with a clinical waste disposal area, regions should ensure there is a suitable sized yellow clinical waste bin at an appropriate subcentre/depot.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE used during treatment can be disposed of in the general waste stream. 

PPE that has blood or body fluid contamination, should be placed in clinical waste. Follow local protocol for your specific hospital site for access to clinical waste bins.

Please note that some Health Service Providers (HSP) are still using clinical waste stream to dispose of PPE so please follow the local procedures as relevant at your site and seek clarification from the Hospital Liaison Manager or hospital staff.

Handling and disposal of sharps

To handle, transport and dispose of sharps safely so as to prevent exposure to staff, patients and the public from any risk of transmission of pathogens.


The safe handling and immediate disposal of sharps at the point of use is the responsibility of the person who has used the sharp.

Handling and Disposal of Sharps

  • Use Safety Engineered Medical Devices (SEMDs)/needle-less systems wherever available.
  • Read and understand the instructions for use prior to using sharp devices.
  • Ensure safe distance between other people before exposing a sharp.
  • Never pass an exposed needle to another person.
  • Never accept a used sharp from a patient/bystander or other health care provider.
  • Never re-cap or re-sheath used needles by hand, remove from disposable syringes by hand,  or purposely bend, break or otherwise manipulate by hand.
  • Immediately dispose of sharps post use into a sharps container by the user.
  • SJWA provides sharps collectors that are specific for use at the scene and within the ambulance.
  • Ensure sharps containers are stored and transported securely within the vehicle until ready for disposal.
  • Dispose of sharps containers when they are 3/4 full (As displayed on container)
  • Full sharps containers are disposed of at major hospitals in the designated clinical/sharps waste system.
Other types of waste

Healthcare related waste is any waste that requires specific disposal including pharmaceutical waste and cytotoxic waste.

Cytotoxic Waste:

Material that may be contaminated with cytotoxic medication as a result of cytotoxic therapy. Whilst rare in the ambulance setting, situations may arise where there will be exposure to cytotoxic waste.

Cytotoxic waste must be collected in purple coloured, leakproof bags or containers (the patient or facility will likely have these available).

Cytotoxic waste should then be disposed of at the appropriate designated area of the receiving facility for this transfer.

Pharmaceutical Waste:

Materials that arise from the clinical use of pharmaceutical products, including used discarded medications, syringes, intravenous giving sets and discarded intravenous solutions.

Pharmaceutical waste must be stored so access is prohibited from unauthorised persons, until it can be disposed of appropriately. Schedule 8 & High-Risk medications have special restrictions, and only authorised/responsible staff can handle and dispose of Schedule 8 medications. There are also requirements for documentation of disposal of Schedule 8 & High-Risk medications as outlined in relevant St John medication handling Policies & Procedures and the Medicines and Poisons Act 1994 and the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016.

Key Terms & Links


Department of Health Government of Western Australia (2021). Code of Practice for Clinical and Related Waste Management. Public Health Act 2016.

National Health & Medical Research Council and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.  (2021).  Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare.  Canberra, Australia:  Commonwealth of Australia.

Standards Australia.  AS 4031-1992 and Amendment 1 (1996).  Non-reusable containers for the collection of sharp medical items in health care areas.  Sydney, Australia:  Standards Australia International Limited. 

Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand. AS/NZS 3816:2018.  Management of clinical and related wastes.  Sydney, Australia:  Standards Australia International Limited. 

Document Control

Clinical Services

Responsible Manager
Head of Clinical Services


Published Date

Review Date

Clinical Resources Website

St John Ambulance Western Australia Ltd (ABN 55 028 468 715) (St John WA) operates ambulance and other pre-hospital clinical services. St John WA’s Clinical Resources, including its Clinical Practice Guidelines (Clinical Resources), are intended for use by credentialed St John WA staff and volunteers when providing clinical care to patients for or on behalf of St John WA, within the St John WA Clinical Governance Framework, and only to the extent of the clinician’s authority to practice.

Other users – Terms of Use

The content of the St John WA Clinical Resources is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to serve as health, medical or treatment advice. Any user of this website agrees to be bound by these Terms of Use in their use of the Clinical Resources.

St John WA does not represent or warrant (whether express, implied, statutory, or otherwise) that the content of the Clinical Resources is accurate, reliable, up-to-date, complete or that the information contained is suitable for your needs or for any particular purpose. You are responsible for assessing whether the information is accurate, reliable, up-to-date, authentic, relevant, or complete and where appropriate, seek independent professional advice.

St John WA expressly prohibits use of these Clinical Resources to guide clinical care of patients by organisations external to St John WA, except where these organisations have been directly engaged by St John WA to provide services. Any use of the Clinical Resources, with St John WA approval, must attribute St John WA as the creator of the Clinical Resources and include the copyright notice and (where reasonably practicable) provide a URL/hyperlink to the St John WA Clinical Resources website. 

No permission or licence is granted to reproduce, make commercial use of, adapt, modify or create derivative works from these Clinical Resources. For permissions beyond the scope of these Terms of Use, including a commercial licence, please contact medservices@stjohnambulance.com.au

Where links are provided to resources on external websites, St John WA:

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Your use of any external website is governed by the terms of that website, including any authorisation, requirement or licence for use of the material on that website.

To the maximum extent permitted by law, St John WA excludes liability (including liability in negligence) for any direct, special, indirect, incidental, consequential, punitive, exemplary or other loss, cost, damage or expense arising out of, or in connection with, use or reliance on the Clinical Resources (including without limitation any interference with or damage to a user’s computer, device, software or data occurring in connection with such use).


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