Biomedical waste is defined as “any waste that is generated during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, or in the research activities pertaining to or in the production or testing of biological categories. Hospitals in the United States generate around six million tons of medical waste each year and the number is expected to increase with continued COVID-19 infections and treatments.
There are many categories of biomedical waste and without specific local, state, and federal guidelines for handling, storage, transportation, and ultimate disposal, the risk of infection to the general public as well as the environment would wreak havoc on our society with transmitted diseases. Biomedical waste management prevents the transmission of hazardous diseases within a patient condition to other patients, workers and support services as well as prevents these diseases from infecting the general public and causing toxic damage to the environment.
Each category of medical waste requires specific and detailed handling, storage and disposal to ensure that it is rendered harmless. Non-regulated waste can be deemed harmless and can be disposed of using standard recycling, composting, or disposal methods. Regulated medical waste is required by law to comply with specific guidelines to avoid infection transmission.
Medical waste must be segregated at the point of generation to ensure that the waste is handled, stored, transported and ultimately rendered harmless in a proper manner. Education and knowledge of staff to know which kind of waste is identified and placed in the right container is a priority to avoid risks to exposure.
Each type of hazardous medical waste is required to be placed in the container that is appropriate for that waste type. Containers are required to be sturdy, leak-proof, and have the ability to be securely sealed. For some waste types, inner bags are required that must also be leak and puncture proof and can be securely sealed. Universal biohazard labels are placed on the outside of the containers and the universal radioactive label is placed on containers that hold radioactive materials.
Color-coding of containers is critical for both the professionally trained individuals that will handle and transport the medical waste as well as the staff/employees for identification. Non-hazardous waste is often placed in containers that are blue or green for recycling or a neutral color for normal waste.
Colors of warning for containers include: Yellow for incineration, Red for autoclaving and/or chemical treatment, Blue/White for autoclaving and/or shredding, Black for radioactive.
Containers holding medical waste on site should be in an area that:
Most healthcare organizations make use of a professional, licensed and trained medical waste management company that will pick up, transport, and comply with all laws for ultimate disposal.
Parent page – Biohazard Waste Disposal
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