Medical Waste Best Practices [Infographic]
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If your healthcare practice has medical waste, the law says it’s up to you to figure out how to best dispose of it. Making sure to exercise proper disposal is a choice that reflects positively on the environment as well as the integrity of your company. Follow these best practices to safely and efficiently dispose of your medical waste.
Determine what type of waste your facility is producing.
Is the waste at your facility infectious or non-infectious? Infectious waste is often classified as waste contaminated by things like blood, body fluids, or other potentially harmful materials that can infect and harm humans or the environment. Unlike infectious waste, non-infectious waste can be disposed of with solid waste. Do you have pathological or pharmaceutical waste? Pathological waste includes things like carcasses, tissues, and body parts. Pharmaceutical waste includes unused medications and contaminated packaging. Knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step to proper disposal.
Separate different types of waste. Know which kinds can be disposed of together, and which need isolated treatment.
Not all waste can be disposed of the same way. For example, sharps require placement in special containers that will inhibit needle sticks. Also, some types of waste, like trace chemotherapy and pathological, require special permitting. In dealing with these biohazardous wastes, other factors such as labeling and time-frame of required disposal also come into play.
Know the Laws: EPA, DOT, DEA, OSHA.
There are many regulatory bodies that have a say in the medical waste disposal process—the EPA, DOT, DEA, OSHA. It is important to be familiar with all of them. From time of pick-up, to transportation, to storage and ultimate disposal, these agencies each have strict guidelines to keep the process as safe and eco-friendly as possible.
Choose a qualified provider.
Choosing the right provider will make your facility’s entire medical waste disposal process smooth and easy and Healthcare Waste Management provides all the right options. From our compliance and safety training, to our reusable sharps containers, to our EPA, IDEM and DOT pickup, transport, and disposal licensing, we can make your medical waste disposal as simple and hassle-free as possible.
Medical Waste Best Practices
All healthcare workers should know and observe the best practices for medical waste collection, storage, transportation, and disposal. Know the laws, classify and separate all waste, and use a clear color-coding system. Don’t overfill containers, and keep non-regulated waste separate to cut costs.
- Know the medical waste laws. Waste from healthcare facilities is regulated by the states, the EPA, DEA, OSHA, the DOT, and other federal, state, and local agencies. Be aware of all laws before preparing, storing, or transporting waste.
- Classify all healthcare waste. About 85% of medical waste is non-hazardous, such as sweeping waste or office trash. However, 15% is hazardous. To keep costs low, don’t put non-hazardous waste in with hazardous waste.
- Separate waste. Separate waste by type, including pathological, sharps, chemical, and pharmaceutical. All regulated biohazardous waste should go in red bags. Sharps go in puncture-proof containers.
- Use proper medical waste containers. Some waste can go into certified cardboard boxes. Other wastes go into special tubs. Some is even locked for transportation.
- Prepare waste containers. Package all bags and containers by taping them for shipment. Then follow DOT waste packaging rules and weight restrictions. Store containers in a dry, secure area for shipping or pickup. Properly label all biohazardous waste.
- Attach the right documentation. The correct documentation protects the waste disposal company, the shipper, and the healthcare provider. Completed paperwork must accompany every bag or container during transit.
- Color code all waste. The WHO suggests a color coding system that many facilities adopt. Black containers are for general, non-hazardous healthcare waste. Yellow containers are for used sharps boxes and potentially infected waste bags. Some facilities use red bins for biohazards, and blue for expired medicines. Radioactive wastes like Iodine-131 go into shielded lead containers marked with a radiation symbol.
- Don’t overfill. Bags should be ¾ full at the most to reduce the chance of spillage. Keep containers covered, and seal them once they’re filled.
- Keep a strict collection or shipping schedule. Waste shouldn’t be allowed to sit too long, especially in heat. Store medical waste in a cool, dry place out of the way of normal operations.
- Use a trusted waste disposal company. The thicket of regulations, types of waste, and many methods of transporting and disposal create a frightening hassle for healthcare employees. Partner with a dependable vendor to avoid a potential catastrophe.
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