Guide to Healthcare Waste Segregation
October 25, 2020
A Facility’s Guide to Healthcare Waste Segregation
A Guide to Healthcare Waste Segregation. There are many different types of medical waste that is generated in the healthcare environment, and critical protocols have been established to protect patients, healthcare providers, the
community and the environment. The guidelines established by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliment those that have been established by local and state regulations for waste segregation and disposal. Waste segregation is the first action for proper medical waste disposal and involves the type of waste as well as specific identifiers.
Medical Waste Types:
- Infectious waste: Items contaminated with blood and/or other bodily fluids, infectious items from laboratories, waste from patients.
- Pathological waste: Human tissues, fluids, organs, body parts, carcasses from contaminated animals.
- Sharps: Needles, syringes, disposable blades and scalpels, discarded tubes or slides.
- Chemical waste: various laboratory preparation reagents and solvents, medical device and battery sterilants and heavy metals, disinfectants.
- Pharmaceutical waste: Unused, expired and/or contaminated vaccines and medications.
- Cyctotoxic waste: waste that contains substances with genotoxic properties such as carcinogenic, teratogenic, or mutagenic. These include cytotoxic medications used in treatment for cancer and their metabolites.
- Radioactive waste: Products that have been contaminated by radionuclides. These can include diagnostic material that is radioactive or materials that are radiotherapeutic.
- Non-hazardous, also known as general waste: Waste that doesn’t present any hazard involving chemical, biological, radioactive or physical.
Medical Waste Segregation
Separation and containment of medical waste is reliant upon the proper containers and identification of contents. Training and education of staff on the use of each container type will avoid errors that can put people, the community, and the environment at risk for contamination.
- Sharps containers are usually red in color, are shatter-proof and must have the ability to securely close so avoid the sharps from puncturing or falling out of the container.
- Biohazard container are usually red in color and have an external biohazard logo symbol on the front. These containers are used for both infectious and possibly infectious wasted including bodily fluids and blood.
- Trace chemotherapy containers are yellow in color and used for various types of chemical and other waste types including anything that has come into contact with chemotherapy medications.
- RCRA hazardous containers are black in color and are used for those wastes that have been classified as RCRA hazardous. These can include pathological, chemical, infectious, and other wastes.
- Pharmaceutical waste containers are blue in color and used for any type of pharmaceutical waste.
- Radioactive waste containers are yellow in color and have an external radioactive logo/symbol on the front.
Training and Storage
All healthcare facility staff should be trained and educated on the various types of medical waste protocols for disposal and what items are acceptable in each of the containers and bags. All medical waste containers and bags should be easily identifiable. Compliance is required for the handling and storage of each type of medical waste container according to regulations. When preparing the containers for pickup by a medical waste disposal company, containers should be placed in a safe place that is inaccessible to the general public or staff. Containers and bags should be protected from damage or spillage prior to pick up.
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