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How to Handle Infectious Waste for Everyone’s Safety

Infectious Waste

The dangers of infectious waste cannot be emphasized enough and should be one of the highest priority concerns of every organization that deals with infectious waste. Careful planning and strategies must be in place to ensure that all patients, staff, and the environment remains safe from any contagious materials. There are various types of infectious wastes, from microorganisms to solids and fluids; identifying each one and the proper methods of containment is critical. Asymptomatic individuals may not show any symptoms but can be highly infectious. There are local, state, and federal guidelines established for the safe handling and disposal of infectious waste and, combined with staff training, can keep contaminants from spreading infection. A majority of organizations that have infectious waste coordinate with a licensed and professional medical waste disposal company for removal and safe disposal.

Types of Infectious Wastes

Body fluids, blood and blood products such as plasma tissues and serum can be infectious even when there aren’t any symptoms. These types of potentially infected items need to be prioritized for disposal in containers that are leak-proof and sealable.

Sharps are a specific category of infectious waste and includes any object that has been exposed to or used in an area where they may be infectious and can pierce the skin. These can include but are not limited to: hypodermic needles, scalpels, knives, blades, broken glass, tubes, laboratory kits, and pipettes.

Pathological waste includes any type of waste that has been removed from humans or animals during a surgical process. These include but are not limited to body parts, tissues, body fluids, and organs.

Laboratory waste is any item used in a laboratory environment that could be exposed to infectious agents or hazardous chemicals. These can include but are not limited to cultures, animal extracts derived from controlled experiments, used reagents, items used in the development of drugs/pharmaceuticals, and materials from research analysis. Even items used in these environments such as paper and tissue must be treated as infectious waste.

Chemotherapy waste includes any tools or items that have been used during a chemotherapy sessions and can include but are not limited to gloves, IV bags, pads, sheets, tubing, and vials.

Medical waste Containers

Containers designed for medical waste disposal should be leak-proof, puncture-proof, sealable, sturdy, and strong. There are different containers for solid, liquid, and sharps waste, and each is designed to protect from spilling or accidents. Specific attention is given to sharps that need to be placed in puncture-proof containers or boxes. Containers will also have inner bags that line the containers to assist in keeping the infectious items from leaking or spilling out. The inner bags are also tied or wrapped. The exterior of the containers will have the universal hazard logo as well as any required additional labels that may be needed by a particular state for transporting. Staff should be trained to know to never overfill containers so that there is a potential for spillage or puncture.

Color Coding Containers

Dealing with and handling infectious agents is difficult enough and one of the strategies to make it easier and less hazardous is to use color-coded containers and bags. Each type of infectious material will have its own container color, with labeling that easily identifies the type of infectious waste that should be placed inside.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

To minimize contact and potential exposure, individuals that are involved in any condition where there is infectious waste should wear PPE. These can include but are not limited to: gloves, masks, hazard suits, and facial shields.

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