Managing Regulated Medical Waste
Managing Regulated Medical Waste
Regulated medical waste (RMW) is categorized differently from hazardous waste, which is governed by federal associations in conjunction with state laws. The guidelines for RMW are set by the individual states and associated regulations for OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) and both state and federal DOT (Department of Transportation). Each state has created their own rules, laws, and guidelines for RMW regulation implementation.
While a majority of states comply with similar regulations, there are alterations in terminologies as well as requirements. Regulated medical waste is often referred to as infectious waste or biohazardous waste, but all relate to any item that may be contaminated with potentially infectious agents as medical waste that could pose a significant threat of infection transmission. Each state has specific guidelines for handling, storage, transportation, containment, licensing and fees, and disposal.
RMW Types, Containment, Disposal:
Various states have differences in how they list or categorize RMW, however all states include the same information for the types of items that are considered as RMW. A majority of states identify the seven main types of RMW as:
- Contaminated sharps waste is any item that can puncture the skin and can include but are not limited to: hypodermic needles, scalpels, syringes, broken glass or plastic contaminated by blood, and knives. Due to the dangers, sharps are placed in puncture-proof, leak-resistant bags that are typically only ¾ filled and then placed in sturdy, leak-proof, sealable containers. Both bags and containers are labeled with the universal biohazard label. Most states use the autoclave method for safe disposal.
- Pathological and anatomical waste is any item that is made of but not limited to body parts, tissues, or organs removed during surgeries as well as small tissue items removed as part of study, research, or experimentation. Anatomical is specific to human body parts and organs. These items are most often placed in leak-resistant plastic bags and then inside sturdy sealable containers that have the universal biohazard label. States may use incineration or autoclave methods for safe disposal.
- Microbiological waste is what is created in laboratories during research and/or experimentation. They may include but is not limited to anything that it contaminated such as stocks, cultures, biologicals, and microorganisms that may be infectious. They are placed in sturdy containers that have the universal biohazard label. Depending upon the state, the containers may require additional labeling for identification of contents. They are typically autoclaved for proper safe disposal.
- Blood, blood products and OPIM (Other potentially infectious materials) are anything that contains blood or the blood itself. These can include but are not limited to: OPIM in suction canisters, blood tubes and tubing. OPIM can include but is not limited to human body fluids and any body fluid that has visible contamination. In the past, some states allowed disposal of these items through a sanitary sewer, but states are changing their laws so it’s best to check with the individual state guidelines.
- Any contaminated item that might release liquid or semi-liquid OPIM or blood if compressed can include but are not limited to items such as gauze that is blood-soaked or dried allowing blood to flake off, gloves that have blood on them, or any other item that has not absorbed the blood 100% so that it can’t be released. These items are placed in leak-proof, sealable bags and then in sturdy containers; each one with the biohazard label. Some states required them to be incinerated or chemically treated before safe disposal.
- Isolation wastes are those that contain wastes that are highly communicable diseases such as Ebola, etc. The CDC has created a definition for isolation wastes as those that are biological wastes and materials that have been discarded that have been contaminated with blood, exudates, excretion, or secretions from humans or animals who are isolated for the protection of other from highly communicable diseases. While the patient contact makes use of the CDC Isolation Precautions, the wastes are managed in the same way as other medical waste. Typically this type of waste is placed in a sealable bag that is labeled for the type of waste and then in a sealable container with the universal biohazard label. Waste treatment can be either incineration or chemical treatments, depending upon the state rules.
- Animal waste can include but is not limited to any animal carcass, body part, or bedding that is infected with a disease that can be transmitted to humans or that has been exposed to pathogens during research. These are treated as infectious waste and states differ on whether they require incineration or chemical treatment. This type of waste is typically placed in a sealable plastic bag that has an identifying label and then into a sturdy, sealable container with the universal biohazard label.
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