How to Handle and Dispose of Medical Waste. As per the EPA, Medical waste is a subset of wastes generated at health care facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories. Generally, medical waste is 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.
Items soaked with blood that release blood when compressed or items caked with blood that will flake off when handled must be disposed of as medical waste. It will go in the clearly marked red biohazard bin, box, or bag.
Proper training is key to safely handling medical waste. Before a worker is exposed they are required to be trained, the minimum requirement would be the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1030
The OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard states,
The right medical waste disposal company will have trained and licensed professionals coming into your facility, they will supply the medical generator with the proper containers, bags, and labels, and offer compliance training for your staff, have on-time pickups with convenient pickup dates and times, take the medical waste to their own treatment facilities and supply all the confirmation documentation that the medical waste was rendered harmless. The right medical waste disposal company keeps up to date of all state and federal laws so a facility can have peace of mind. A medical waste disposal company that owns its own treatment plant/s must stay current with regulations to keep their license as a medical waste disposal plant.
There are four common methods of medical waste disposal, and each must comply with state laws:
Autoclaving: a method using high temperatures and steam to change hazardous waste into non-infectious. Once completed, the residue can be safely incinerated or placed in landfills.
Chemical: a method using specific chemicals to neutralize the medical waste rendering it harmless. However, the chemical process can’t be used with some medical waste due to the creation of potentially toxic materials with the addition of the chemicals.
Incineration: a method using high temperature heat. This has fallen from popularity due to the resulting materials that have caused pollution. However, it remains the one disposal method used for pathological waste.
Microwaving: a method that makes use of powerful microwaves to render the waste harmless.
Lastly, it’s important to do your research before hiring a company to manage your medical waste disposal. You will want to make sure the company that handles your medical waste, is experienced, timely, properly trained, and can take care of any, and all regulated waste your facility generates.
Centers for Disease Control website. Sharps safety for healthcare settings. www.cdc.gov/sharpssafety/resources.html. Accessed March 1, 2022.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens – Standards | Occupational Safety. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030 Accessed March 1, 2022.
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