Title:
Storing biologically contaminated items
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The receptacle is shown for storing biologically contaminated items. The receptacle has a storage portion (901) and a closure portion (902) each fabricated from plastic card. The closure portion is placed in an open condition for receiving items or in a closed condition in which the receptacle is liquid-tight. A first sealing device (903) is provided for sealing the closure portion to allow transportation to a decontamination station.



Inventors:
Wood, Nicholas Berndt (Sheffield, GB)
Application Number:
11/020039
Publication Date:
06/29/2006
Filing Date:
12/23/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D83/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHORBAJI, MONZER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH, GAMBRELL & RUSSELL, LLP (1850 M STREET, N.W., SUITE 800, WASHINGTON, DC, 20036, US)
Claims:
1. A receptacle for storing biologically contaminated items, comprising an opening for receiving hand-held items after said items have been contaminated with biological material; first sealing apparatus for sealing said opening so as to allow the receptacle to be transported for de-contamination by the application of heat; wherein said first sealing apparatus is configured to become unsealed during said decontamination process so as to facilitate the sterilization or destruction of said items.

2. A receptacle according to claim 1, wherein said first sealing apparatus is an adhesive tape protected by a covering strip and said opening is sealed by said adhesive tape by the removal of said covering strip.

3. A receptacle according to claim 1, wherein said opening is defined by folded portions configured to deform elastically and said elastically deformed portions are configured to at least partially return to their pre-deformed state after said opening has become unsealed during decontamination.

4. A receptacle according to claim 1, wherein said first sealing apparatus is configured to become unsealed in an autoclave thereby facilitating the sterilization of said items.

5. A receptacle according to claim 1, wherein said first sealing apparatus is configured to become unsealed in an incinerator thereby facilitating the destruction of said implements.

6. A receptacle according to claim 1 including a second sealing apparatus configured to provide a temporary and reversible sealing mechanism for said opening.

7. A receptacle for storing biologically contaminated items, comprising a storage portion and a closure portion each fabricated from plastic coated card, wherein said closure portion is placed in an open condition for receiving said items or in a closed condition in which the receptacle is liquid-tight; and a first sealing apparatus is provided for sealing said closure portion to allow transportation to a decontamination station.

8. A receptacle according to claim 7, wherein said storage portion has tapering sides to facilitate bulk storage in an unused state.

9. A receptacle according to claim 7, wherein said closure portion is folded and secured by an adhesive tape.

10. A receptacle according to claim 9, wherein said adhesive tape is protected by a strip, and said strip is removed as part of a securing process.

11. A receptacle according to claim 9, wherein said adhesive tape is configured to release said closure during a decontamination process involving the application of heat.

12. A receptacle according to claim 7, wherein said storage portion includes a transparent area so as to allow a laboratory operative to view the contents of said storage portion.

13. A receptacle according to claim 7, wherein said storage portion has a base and said base curves inwards such that the storage portion rests substantially upon its corners when in use.

14. A method of sterilizing or destroying hand-held laboratory implements, comprising the steps of placing items contaminated with biological material into a receptacle via an opening; sealing said opening using first sealing apparatus; transporting the sealed receptacle to a decontamination station; and, at said decontamination station, applying heat to sterilize or destroy said items, wherein said first sealing apparatus is configured to become unsealed in response to said heat application step to facilitate the sterilization or destruction of said implements.

15. A method according to claim 14, wherein said first sealing apparatus is an adhesive tape protected by a covering strip, said method further comprising the removal of said covering strip from said adhesive tape to effect closure of the receptacle.

16. A method according to claim 15, wherein said adhesive strip contracts under the action of said heat so as to facilitate said unsealing.

17. A method according to claim 14 wherein the opening is defined by folded portions configured to deform elastically such that said elastically deformed portions at least partially return to their pre-deformed state after the first sealing apparatus has become unsealed.

18. A method according to claim 13, wherein said heat is applied by the operation of an autoclave.

19. A method according to claim 14, further comprising the steps of sealing said opening using a second temporary sealing apparatus after placing items into the receptacle; leaving the receptacle for a period of time; removing said second sealing apparatus; placing further items into the receptacle; and sealing the opening using the first sealing apparatus.

20. A method according to claim 14, wherein said opening is sealed substantially flat to facilitate the mass transportation of sealed receptacles to the decontamination station.

21. (canceled)

22. (canceled)

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the storage of biologically contaminated items, such as those produced in laboratories and those resulting from the removal of dressings, etc. The invention is concerned with the storage and disposing of items of relatively low value, as distinct from the storage of knives and needles and similar devices, collectively known as sharps.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a receptacle for storing biologically contaminated items, comprising an opening for receiving hand held items after said items have been contaminated with biological material; and first sealing apparatus for sealing said opening so as to allow the receptacle to be transported for decontamination by the application of heat; wherein said first sealing apparatus is configured to become unsealed during said decontamination process so as to facilitate the sterilisation or destruction of said items.

In a preferred embodiment, the first sealing apparatus is an adhesive tape protected by a covering strip and said opening is sealed by said adhesive tape by the removal of said strip.

According to a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a receptacle for storing biologically contaminated laboratory items, comprising a storage portion and a closure portion each fabricated from plastic coated card, wherein said closure portion is placed in an open condition for receiving said items or in a closed condition in which the receptacle is liquid-tight and a first sealing apparatus is provided for sealing said closure portion to allow transportation to a decontamination station.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an overview of an environment in which the invention is deployed;

FIG. 2 details a procedure for making receptacles;

FIG. 3 shows an example of a blank;

FIG. 4 shows how a tube is constructed from a blank;

FIG. 6 illustrates the addition of an adhesive tape;

FIG. 6 illustrates a first stage for sealing the base of the receptacle;

FIG. 7 shows the sealing of the base of the receptacle;

FIG. 8 shows a completed receptacle;

FIG. 9 illustrates the placing of a contaminated item into the receptacle;

FIG. 10 illustrates temporary sealing of the receptacle;

FIG. 11 illustrates the removal of a protective strip as the first stage to the permanent sealing of the receptacle;

FIG. 12 illustrates the closing of the receptacle;

FIG. 13 further illustrates the dosing of the receptacle,

FIG. 14 illustrates a first sealing operation;

FIG. 15 illustrates a final sealing operation;

FIG. 16 shows sealed receptacles loaded into an autoclave basket;

FIG. 17 shows the state of the receptacles after the autoclaving process; and

FIG. 18 illustrates the disposal of a sterilized receptacle.

WRITTEN DESCRIPTION OF THE BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

FIG. 1

A preferred embodiment will be described for the storage and disposing of biologically contaminated laboratory implements. However, it should be appreciated that the invention may also be used in similar environments for the storage of contaminated waste, such as soiled dressings etc.

An overview of an environment in which the invention is deployed is illustrated in FIG. 1. At step 101 raw materials in the form of plastic coated card and adhesive tape are received and conveyed to stage 102 where a receptacle is made.

In use, as illustrated at step 103, contaminated waste is inserted within the receptacle which, following the insertion, results in the receptacle being closed at step 104. When the receptacle is full, or at the end of a working period, a first sealing apparatus may be deployed which provides permanent sealing of the receptacle. However, at intermediate stages, a second apparatus may be used to provide temporary closure such as, over a rest interval or if a laboratory operative is required to perform alternative tasks.

Finally, at step 105 disposal of the receptacle takes place. In a preferred embodiment, the receptacles are configured such that it is possible to stack one upon the other so as to allow for efficient transportation. Disposal usually takes place by first of all effecting a de-contamination process by placing the receptacles in an autoclave or in an incinerator. In the preferred embodiment, the permanent sealing apparatus is configured such that failure takes place when heat is applied resulting in the receptacle opening at least in part so as to facilitate the sterilization or destruction of the items contained therein.

FIG. 2

Procedure 102 for making the receptacles is detailed in FIG. 2. At step 201 a roll of card typically having a thickness of 0.5 mm and coated by a polyethylene film on both sides is cut into blanks. At step 202 each blank is formed into a tube, with sealing taking place by the application of heat; this being responsible for temporarily melting the plastic coating.

At step 203 double-sided sealing tape, such as VHB double sided foam tape manufactured by 3M is applied. The sealing tape is applied to a surface of the receptacle and the free surface of the sealing tape is protected by a cover strip.

FIG. 3

As previously described with effect to FIG. 2, the roll of coated card is cut into blanks at step 201. An example of a blank of the type produced at step 201 is illustrated at FIG. 3. Regions 301, 302, 304 and 305 fold to form a base portion. Similarly, regions 311, 312, 313, 314 and 315 fold to define sidewall portions. Likewise, the regions above said sidewall regions define a closure portion. The sidewall portions and the base portions previously described, in combination, define a storage portion.

Long sidewall regions 311 and 313 include a window 316 and 317 respectively cut therein. After the blank has been cut as shown in FIG. 3, transparent material is applied over the inside of said windows 316 and 317 so as to allow an operative to view the contents of the storage portion while at the same time ensuring that it is not possible for any liquid contained within the receptacle to escape after the receptacle has been closed.

FIG. 4

Procedure 202 as previously described concerns the forming of a tube from each of the blanks, of the type shown in FIG. 3. The blank is folded along its vertical lines to produce a tube as illustrated in FIG. 4. The tube is secured by heating region 315 such that it is then held securely in place against region 311. By the application of heat, causing the plastic coating to effectively be welded, the assembly is secured to provide a liquid-tight arrangement, so as to ensure that any contaminated material cannot escape during transportation.

As previously described, regions are present, illustrated generally as 401, which are folded in order to define a base. Similarly, regions illustrated generally at 402 are folded to define a closure. Thus, when supplied, base portions 401 are sealed whereas closure portions 402 remain open until contaminated material has been placed in the receptacle and the receptacle is closed.

The closure portions 402 include a tab 403 for receiving a seal so as to ensure that the receptacle is fully sealed during transportation.

FIG. 5

Step 203, as identified in FIG. 2, requires the application of a sealing tape to the closure portion of the receptacle, as illustrated in FIG. 5.

An adhesive tape, preferably in the form of an acrylic foam double-sided adhesive tape is protected on one side by a tape which is removed from the adhesive strip prior to sealaing. Preferably, the adhesive strip is of the high initial grab type and may have a thickness of around one millimetre. A preferred example is XYZ tape manufactured by 123.

Thus, a length 501 of adhesive strip is applied to tab 403, as illustrated in FIG. 5.

During the formation of the blank, region 305 is scored to produce score lines 404 and 405. Similarly, corresponding parts of the closure are scored as illustrated at 503 and 504. Similar scoring is also provided at the opposing end to region 305 for example.

FIG. 6

Having applied tape to the closure it is now necessary to seal the base as required by procedure 204. Initially, force is applied in the direction of arrow 601 and in the direction of arrow 602 in order to encourage folding of score lines 404 and 405 and the corresponding score lines on the opposite side. As pressure is applied in these directions, regions 301 and 304 are forced to together slightly such that, on the application of further pressure and heat, it becomes possible to seal the base.

FIG. 7

Having formed a tube and having folded the base portions partially, as illustrated in FIG. 6, heat and pressure are applied to the base portions in order to effect permanent sealing. Heat and pressure is applied by the action of a mandrel 701 which is effectively inserted within the container so as to be forced into contact with what is to become the bottom surface of the container on the inside. The mandrel 701 then co-operates mechanically with a base-plate 702 thereby allowing heat and pressure to be applied to both the inner and outer surfaces of the base. This results in the cardboard regions being forced into the required orientation and then permanently held in this orientation by effectively melting and thereby welding part of the plastic cover.

In the preferred production method, additional means are provided for supplying heat to the cardboard regions that are to be welded. The regions are then brought together under pressure by the application of the mandrel and the base-plate whereupon, through the introduction of cooling water, it is then possible to effect a rapid cooling and solidification such that a secure weld is made in a relatively short period of time.

The base-plate 702 has a raised profile such that region 703 is substantially curved in a positive sense so as to push portion 703 into the base-plate area and thereby create a slight concavity when viewed from an external perspective. In this way, when in use and supported upon a base, the container rests substantially upon it corner edges. Thus, even when material is place into the storage portion of the receptacle it is not possible for the base region to bow outwards; and thereby preventing rocking and instability.

FIG. 8

A completed receptacle is illustrated in FIG. 8. As previously described, the receptacle rests substantially upon its corners 801, 802, 803 and a fourth corner not shown in this Figure. This has been achieved by the profile of the base-plate 702, as previously described, used when forming the closed storage portion during the manufacturing process.

It can be seen from FIG. 8 that the sidewalls present a substantially tapered profile such that it becomes relatively easy to store one such receptacle within another, such that many such receptacles may be stored together in a relatively small space. Thus, in addition to reducing storage requirements, the arrangement of the receptacles in this way also facilitates the transportation of the apparatus. Thus, it is not necessary to perform assembly stages prior to use which could, in practice, undermine the requirement for the receptacles to be sealed so as to prevent the escape of any liquid material.

FIG. 9

A receptacle in use is illustrated in FIG. 9. In this example, the receptacle is being used primarily for storing biologically contaminated laboratory implements such as plastic loops and similar non-sharp items which, although not presenting a mechanical hazard, could present a significant biological hazard.

The receptacle presents a storage portion shown generally as 901 and a closure portion illustrated generally as 902, each fabricated from plastic coated card. The closure portion may be placed in an open condition, as illustrated in FIG. 9, for receiving contaminated items which, thereafter, may be viewed through window 316. The closure portion may also be placed in a closed condition in which the receptacle becomes liquid-tight so as to ensure that any biologically contaminated liquid contained therein cannot escape during transportation.

A first sealing apparatus 903 is provided by the acrylic foam double-sided tape; this allowing the closure portion to be sealed as previously described so as to facilitate transportation to an area where decontamination may take place.

FIG. 10

Having inserted contaminated items within the receptacle, an operator may wish to leave the receptacle for a short period of time (possibly over a lunch break) and then reuse the receptacle prior to applying the permanent seal. Under these conditions, it is possible to close the receptacle, as illustrated in FIG. 10, and apply a secondary sealing device such as a plastic clip 1001. Upon returning from a short absence, the dip 1001 may be removed, the closure portion re-opened and additional contaminated items may be placed within the storage portion of the receptacle

FIG. 11

Eventually, upon the receptacle becoming full or at the end of the working day, it becomes necessary to seal the receptacle such that it is not possible for any contaminated items to be removed. As a first stage to sealing the receptacle, protection strip 1101 is removed from its associated adhesive tape 1102. Having removed the strip, the acrylic foam high initial grab tape should not be touched and the receptacle closure should be manipulated so as to place the receptacle in its closed condition.

FIG. 12

Having removed the protection strip, the ends of the closure portion are squeezed together so as to force said ends together in the directions of arrows 1201 and 1202.

FIG. 13

Having brought the edges together as illustrated in FIG. 12, the closure portion is now forced downwards in the direction of arrow 1301. This results in the top of the receptacle being rendered substantially flat so as to create a closed container having substantially parallel upper and lower faces, with tapering end faces.

FIG. 14

Having brought the top of the receptacle down so as to form its closed condition, the tab 403 is folded over thereby creating a sealed and substantially flat top surface.

FIG. 15

Final closure is achieved by folding end portions 1501 of the tab 403 along the side edges of the receptacle which are then secured in position by the adhesive tape.

FIG. 16

Having closed the receptacle as illustrated in FIG. 15, it is now in a position to be transported to a decontamination station such that the waste may be rendered harmless or totally destroyed. In the example disclosed herein, the waste is first of all sterilized in an autoclave such that subsequent destruction may occur using conventional waste disposal techniques.

As a first stage, individual closed receptacles, of the type shown in FIG. 15 and illustrated generally as 1601, are loaded into an autoclave basket 1602.

FIG. 17

The autoclave basket 1602 is inserted, either alone or in combination with similar baskets, into an autoclave. The autoclaving process involves the generation of high temperature and pressure (superheated) steam which is designed to penetrate all areas of contamination resulting in complete sterilization.

An embodiment of the present invention therefore provides a receptacle for storing biologically contaminated items, in which the receptacle has an opening for receiving items that have been contaminated with biological material. A dosing apparatus is provided by the adhesive tape 1102 which, once secured, as shown in FIG. 15, allows the receptacle to be transported for decontamination by the application of heat. In the embodiment, heat is applied via the autoclaving process, in which the heat is transferred to the receptacle via the transmission of the super heated steam.

In this embodiment the tape 1102 is configured to become unsealed during the decontamination process so as to facilitate the sterilization or destruction of the contaminated items.

FIG. 17 shows autoclave basket 1602 when removed from the autoclave after the autoclaving process has been performed. As shown in FIG. 17, the seals have now failed due to the presence of the superheated steam and the elastic nature of the receptacle closure has resulted in said closure becoming at least partially open. This opening process takes place at a relatively early stage of the autoclaving process, such that superheated steam is now given free access to the internal contents of the receptacle. In this way, the receptacle ensures that full sterilization takes place; thereby rendering the contaminants harmless prior to subsequent transportation for destruction.

FIG. 18

The final stage of the destruction process is illustrated in FIG. 18. The autoclaving procedure, with the receptacles opening such that full decontamination takes place, results in the receptacles along with their contents being rendered substantially harmless. As such, they can be easily removed from the autoclave basket 1602 and disposed of in waste sacks 1801, as shown in FIG. 18.