Pouches, Trays & Transport

Transportation Boxes

Guidance documents request that dedicated transport boxes are used which are:

  • Rigid
  • Robust
  • Easy to clean
  • Capable of being closed securely
  • Leak proof*

Transportation boxes should be clearly marked to identify the contents, either contaminated or clean instruments. A colour coding scheme is often preferred to distinguish between contaminated and clean instrument transportation, however it is still advisable that they are clearly labelled.

Transportation boxes are not interchangeable. This means that a box designated to carry contaminated instruments cannot then become the transport box for clean instruments, and vice versa.

Transport boxes are required to be kept visibly clean, this can be achieved through a single disinfectant wipe or washing the boxes with detergent and leaving to dry. Transport boxes should be cleaned between each use or when visibly dirty.

* These transportation boxes are compliant with section 2.2.62.1.5.7 of the European Agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods and facilitate the transportation of all used medical instruments or equipment for the purposes of decontamination, cleaning, sterilisation or repair. Please note that they are not leak proof, however these transportation boxes are used extensively throughout the NHS, and within Hospital Sterile Services departments.

Pre-soaking Agents

Transportation boxes are not interchangeable. This means that a box designated to carry contaminated instruments cannot then become the transport box for clean instruments, and vice versa.

It is recommended that instruments are transferred from the surgery to the decontamination area as soon as possible and that instruments are kept moist until the cleaning and reprocessing system can take place. Instruments which are kept moist inbetween decontamination times are more easily cleaned.

Instruments can be kept in a suitable solution in a clearly labelled transportation box. Check with the manufacturer of the solutions COSHH guidance for the length of time permitted for soaking before corrosion may occur.

Transporting Contaminated Instruments

Once instruments are contaminated and require decontamination, ideally they need to be taken to the decontamination room immediately. Often practices are too busy to perform this task straight away. The contaminated instruments need to be stored in a compliant transportation box, with a pre-soaking agent if required under the practice policy.

This process needs to be carried out safely and securely in order to prevent contamination, to protect the instruments and to protect the staff member handling the transportation.

If a practice performs the decontamination process within the patient treatment area instruments must be kept out of the way of patients, and sterile instruments, in a secure area.

Transporting Sterilised Instruments

It is not only contaminated instruments that require safe transportation. Instruments stored in surgery or outside of the decontamination room require safe and secure transportation.

When transporting clean instruments they must either be pouched or placed on a sterilised tray inside the transport box. This helps to prevent re-contaminating processed instruments.

Storing Decontaminated Instruments

If instruments have not been bagged prior to sterilisation – i.e. when using a type N (non-vacuum autoclave) they should be dried with a lint free cloth and then sealed into a pouch immediately.

If there is any delay between sterilising and bagging, instruments should be covered with a lint free cloth.

Instruments that are pouched either before or immediately after sterilisation may be stored for the following periods:

England – I year

In England this can be written or stamped onto the pouch.

Scotland – 60 days

In Scotland the information should be written / stamped onto a sticky label that is then applied to the pouch.

Wales – Wrapped instruments can be stored for one year. If using a non-vacuum steriliser it is recommended that wrapped instruments stored for more than one month should be reprocessed.

To minimise reprocessing, only set out the instruments that are reasonably expected to be used on a particular treatment. All instruments set out for a treatment must be reprocessed even if they have not been used.

Storage facilities must ensure that the instrument packs are protected from contamination and protected from moisture.

Damp packaging will render the pack permeable to microorganisms.

Wrapped instruments can be stored in a cupboard, a drawer or on trays which are lidded. Stock rotation should be part of the practice protocol to ensure that instruments never get used which are past their expiry dates.

Instruments which are stored un-wrapped in the surgery can be kept in a cupboard, a drawer or on trays which are lidded. The clean transportation box can also be used. Un-wrapped and unused instruments should be sent for reprocessing at the end of the day.

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