How Is Medical Waste Managed? Managing medical waste is a serious topic involving comprehension of the types of medical waste and the very specific methods of dealing with them so that they don’t transmit potentially infectious diseases. The established local, state, and federal guidelines include handling, disposal, and destruction of each type of medical waste.
The Medical Waste Tracking act of 1988 defines medical waste as any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals. There are four categories of medical waste: infectious, hazardous, radioactive, and “other.” The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that 10-15% of medical waste generated is infectious waste.
Laws and guidelines include the fact that the first step in dealing with medical waste is being prepared at the point of generation. This includes having all staff trained via the OSHA certification for medical waste handling, having all of the appropriate containers for each type of medical waste, and complying with guidelines on the proper disposal of medical waste.
How to Handle Sharps: Sharps involve any item that can pierce the skin that has been or may be contaminated with a disease that could be transmitted. Sharps include but are not limited to: blades, needles, endodontic files, knives, scalpels, broken plastic or glass. Sharps are to be placed in sturdy, leak proof containers with a sealable top/lid and that are lined with a red bag and filled to only 2/3 capacity; and tied shut with a twist similar tie. The universal biohazard label is to be placed on the exterior of the container.
How to Handle non-Liquid Medical Waste: Standard regulated waste can include but are not limited to: any container that has fluid blood such as IV tubing, cultures, and infectious tissues. Non-liquid medical waste is stored inside a red biohazard bag that has a twist or similar tie to shut and is then placed in a sturdy, container with a sealable lid. A universal biohazard label is then placed on the exterior of the container.
How to Handle Liquid Medical Waste: Check with the local and state guidelines to ensure compliance with their rules. Most states allow liquid medical waste to be disposed of directly into a sanitary sewer system.
How to Handle Hazardous Waste: Hazardous waste can include but are not limited to lead, iodine, most cold sterilant solutions isopropyl alcohols, corrosive cleaners, sludge from silver recovery units, lead foil, teeth with amalgam, dental amalgam. These are placed in a hazardous waste container that is sturdy and has a sealable lid. An external hazardous waste label is placed on the container.
How to Handle Pharmaceutical Waste: The changes made in the Disposal Act in Oct. 2014 by the DEA effects the length of time that healthcare facilities have to store and dispose of pharmaceutical waste. The changes indicate that healthcare facilities can store inner liners for up to three business days before they must be disposed of, both controlled and non-controlled pharmaceuticals can be stored in the same container, and it’s no longer a requirement to have two pharmaceutical disposal employees present at all times when installing, removing, storing, or transferring inner liners. Pharmaceutical waste can be placed in the liners and now be placed in containers for a licensed disposal company to remove as part of medical waste, mailed to disposal companies, or dropped off at any of the state/federal pharmaceutical drop off designated points for disposal.
How is Medical Waste Managed?
Wearing personal protective equipment from prior to the generation of medical waste, place the contaminated item in an approved medical waste or sharps container.
After the threat of exposure is no longer present or you are starting on a new procedure or patient removed your personal protection equipment and replace with new if needed.
During the removal of the full container a new medical waste container should be setup prior to leaving the area so there is always a place to put medical waste.
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