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Best Practices in Safe Medical Waste Disposal



November 23, 2021



Home » Medical Waste Disposal » Best Practices in Safe Medical Waste Disposal

Best Practices in Safe Medical Waste Disposal

Best Practices in Safe Medical Waste Disposal. What exactly is medical waste? Medical waste includes anything that has come in contact with blood, tissue, bodily fluids, or other infectious agents. This also includes all sharps (needles, lancets, broken glass), disposable gowns and gloves, unused medical materials (such as syringes or needles), and laboratory specimens. Medical waste can be very dangerous for humans, animals, and the environment if not disposed of properly. That’s why it’s important to follow the best practices in safe medical waste disposal to keep the people and the environment clean and safe.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when disposing of your medical waste:

The Dangers of Medical Waste

Medical waste can be very dangerous for the environment if not disposed of properly. Medical waste can also cause a lot of harm to people who accidentally come into contact with it.

Infectious substances from medical wastes can spread diseases and create serious health hazards. For this reason, it’s important to dispose of medical wastes in a safe manner.

The most common way to dispose of medical waste is by hiring a professional, experienced, medical waste disposal company. However, handling and packaging medical waste is also part of the generator’s responsibility, you should keep medical wastes in leak-proof containers and in a secure storage room until they can be disposed of properly by the medical waste disposal company.

The Importance of Following Best Practices in Safe Medical Waste Disposal

Medical waste is hazardous to the environment and can be dangerous if not disposed of properly. In many cases, it should be disposed of by a licensed medical waste management company.

Make sure you’re aware of your state’s regulations – Every state has different requirements for how to dispose of medical waste. It’s important to know the details before disposing of your medical waste.

Dispose of sharps properly – When disposing of sharps, make sure to use a sharp container and store them in a safe location out of reach of children and pets.

Keep all medical waste away from food and water supplies – Make sure to store your medical waste in a location that is away from food and water supplies, such as sinks and general storage rooms.

Be aware of the waste type – Some wastes are more harmful than others. Proper segregation of medical waste types is important to avoid, fines and possible exposure, contamination. If you are unsure about your waste call Healthcare Waste Management today at 888-427-5797.

What is Considered Medical Waste?

Medical waste can include anything that has come in contact with blood, tissue, bodily fluids, or other infectious agents. This also includes all sharps (needles, lancets, broken glass), disposable gowns and gloves, unused medical materials (such as syringes or needles), and laboratory specimens. Medical waste can be very dangerous for living organisms if not disposed of properly. That’s why it’s important to follow the best practices in safe medical waste disposal to keep the environment clean and safe.

Definitions of Medical Waste

Although there is no universally accepted definition for medical waste, the definitions offered by most regulatory agencies are similar. Most federal and state agencies differentiate between common medical waste and those wastes with the potential for causing infection and for which special precautions are prudent. Depending on the state, these wastes are referred to as:

Some state regulations use a general definition, while others list specific wastes and categories of waste that are considered infectious. Some states have adopted the definition found in federal standards (e.g., Nevada adopted the DOT definition).

The following six medical wastes are commonly regulated by states:

References – Healthcare Environmental Resource Center

Here are some tips to keep in mind when disposing of your medical waste:

1) Make sure you have the right containers that will meet your needs. It’s important to know how much medical waste you’ll produce daily.

2) Plan ahead before it’s time to dispose. Don’t put off disposing of your waste. It’s important to plan for when your waste will be collected and make sure your containers are near and ready.

3) Follow proper protocols for handling medical waste. Appropriate personal protection equipment is essential when handling medical waste. It’s also important to follow the correct protocols when disposing of your medical waste to ensure it doesn’t leak out and affect any living organisms.

How to Dispose of Your Medical Waste Safely

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines medical waste as “healthcare waste that that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials and is often referred to as regulated medical waste”.

It’s important to make sure you have the right containers to meet your needs and that not all medical waste will be disposed of the same way. For example, sharps are usually disposed of in hard plastic containers that are puncture resistant. This ensures that the sharps are not able to puncture the container and injure anyone.

Sharps Disposal

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has estimated that there are around 385,000 sharps injuries that occur on an annual basis in U.S. hospitals with many more in other healthcare settings.  This increases the risk of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as HBV (hepatitis B), HCV (hepatitis C), and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Dealing with sharps requires taking every precaution and complying with the various state and federal laws to ensure that healthcare providers and patients remain safe.

Sharps should never be recapped and should always be discarded just after use by the user. It is important to have FDA cleared sharps containers available at the point of generation.

The safest type of sharps container is one that prevents contact with other sharps in the container. This is accomplished by using a container that has a touchless disposal process. You place the sharp in a tray and rotate the lid, so the sharps drop into the container without you having to place them inside of the container manually, which helps prevent sticks from other items in the container.

When picking up other types of sharps like broken glass, you should use a pan and broom and never pick up the items by hand.

Only uncap needles when they are ready to be used. You can use a hemostat to loosen and remove the cap.

Always keeping your eye on the sharps while in use and making sure the needle is pointed away from the user can help prevent accidental needle sticks.

Pathological Waste

Pathological waste is red bag waste but must be separated from regular red bag waste. Pathological waste requires different storage and handling. For instance, pathological waste must be incinerated and therefore must be properly labeled as “incineration only”. In addition, pathological waste maybe hazardous waste if it was in contact with chemicals that fall under the RCRA hazardous lists, like chemotherapy. Extra precautions should also be taken when disposing of pathological waste into red bags to prevent leakage in the case of items containing bodily fluids, double bagging, storing in plastic bins, etc.

Identifying the waste, segregating the waste, and labeling the waste appropriately is the key to a successful medical waste management program. All employees from doctors to part-time janitorial staff should be aware of the policies and procedures required for each waste type they may encounter.

Cultures/Stocks of Infectious Agents

Microbiological Waste including Biosafety Level 1, 2 and 3 organisms is medical waste and maybe chemically treated or autoclaved. Microbiological waste can be in solid or liquid forms. Solid forms once placed in a properly labeled, leak proof container can be disinfected by thermal or chemical treatment.

In most cases, solid biological waste is accumulated in the red-bag-lined cardboard boxes or plastic bins, while liquid wastes are in spill/leak proof containers until disinfected. All sharps must be collected in designated sharps containers.

Any staff member that risks potential exposure to blood or biological fluids will be supplied with and wear PPE such as gloves, full bodysuits, booties, and respirators when required.

Biohazard Waste

The risk of infection and transmission of potentially deadly diseases is too great.  State and Federal laws also indicate that the generator is responsible for the biohazard waste from the moment of creation to proving that it was appropriately disposed of according to legal guidelines. Lack of compliance can result in high fines that are compounded daily. A medical waste disposal company will supply clients with the manifests needed while taking care of all biohazard waste disposal according to all guidelines required. The dangers of mishandling biohazard waste disposal can cause transmission of deadly diseases to people and the environment.

Biohazard waste is generally autoclaved to make it non-infectious as it does not require incineration and is a more environmentally friendly way to treat medical waste.

Isolation Waste

Isolation waste is everything anyone brings into an isolation room, even things that are not consider medical or biohazardous waste. There are three basic isolation waste categories: unregulated solid waste, medical or red bag waste, and sharps waste. Proper PPE is required for isolation rooms typically these rooms will have a sign on the door and a waste cart right outside the room. The key is not to use or take the gowns, gloves, shoe coverings throughout the rest of the healthcare facility. These items will be put on prior to entering the room and removed before leaving the patient’s room. Regular biohazard waste and sharps waste disposal procedures apply since these are adequate to destroy diseases.

Contaminated Animal Carcasses Waste

Contaminated Animal Carcasses should be marked for incineration to be disposed of at an approved disposal facility. This waste is treated and disposed of similarly to Pathological Waste. Contaminated Animal Carcasses waste must be incinerated and therefore must be properly labeled as “incineration only”. In addition, this waste maybe hazardous waste if it was in contact with chemicals that fall under the RCRA hazardous lists, like chemotherapy. Extra precautions should also be taken when disposing of Contaminated Animal Carcasses into red bags to prevent leakage in the case of items containing bodily fluids, double bagging, storing in plastic bins, etc.

Safe Medical Waste Disposal

The best option is to lean on and hire an experienced professional medical waste disposal company that has their own treatment plant, like, Healthcare Waste Management.

A medical waste disposal company that owns their own medical waste treatment plant must stay up on the latest regulations for all medical waste categories listed above. Should you have any questions or would like a quote on your medical waste disposal needs call Healthcare Waste Management at 888-427-5797 today!


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