Waste Management for Healthcare Facilities an Overview. Healthcare facilities produce a lot of waste every day. There are many different types of waste they produce from everyday normal regular household type waste to hazardous waste and most things in-between.
Wastes can include soiled linens, needles, bandages, dressings, and patient care products, to waste from eating lunch.
Some of this waste can lead to serious health risks and costly fines if not disposed of properly. The treatment and disposing of various waste depend on what waste are being generated.
But no matter what, healthcare waste management is important. Here is an overview of the steps needed for proper disposal of healthcare wastes.
Healthcare facilities are one of the largest generators of waste in the United States. One hospital can produce an average of 2.67 tons per day. This leads to a lot of different types of wastes and many different disposal methods that need to be taken into consideration, every single day.
Healthcare facilities produce all types of waste, below you will find some of the most common types of waste produced by healthcare facilities.
Recycling Waste includes paper, cardboard, clean plastic or metal, glass, and cans.
Biodegradable Waste this is anything that can be composted left over food etc.
Regular non-infectious healthcare waste includes things like general office waste, packaging, waste you could find in any household or office setting.
Other Waste is any other waste that does not pose a threat or danger to the public or environment and does not fall into the other categories.
This waste can be broken down into five main categories some items have sub-categories. Those waste are.
Human anatomical waste this waste includes non-infectious organs, tissues, blood bags, and body parts.
Sharps Waste sharps waste are items closely related to healthcare activities and can cause injury due to the punctures or cuts they can cause, potentially exposing someone to dangerous pathogens. This type of waste is one of the most hazardous wastes generated in a healthcare setting due to its puncture and cut capabilities. Because of this, a sharps management and training program is essential for any healthcare facility.
Pharmaceutical Waste Pharmaceutical waste has three basic categories. Management of these categories requires specific collection and treatment process. It is important to understand that proper pharmaceutical identification is the key to a successful pharmaceutical waste disposal program.
Non-hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste this class includes pharmaceuticals such as tea or cough syrup that pose no hazard threat during, collection, intermediate storage, and waste management. They are not considered hazardous wastes and should be managed jointly with municipal waste.
Potentially Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste this class embraces pharmaceuticals that pose a potential hazard when improperly used by an unauthorized person. They are considered as hazardous wastes and their management must take place with appropriate containers, collection, storage, and disposal processes.
Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste this type of waste could be anything from heavy metals like mercury, to medications like warfarin. It is important to know the regulations to stay compliant with hazardous pharmaceutical waste segregation and disposal laws.
Cytotoxic Pharmaceutical Waste Cytotoxic Pharmaceutical Waste are waste that can be generated when administrating to patients. These chemical substances can be subdivided into six main groups: alkylated substances, antimetabolites, antibiotics, plant alkaloids, hormones, and others. A potential health risk to persons who handle cytotoxic pharmaceuticals results above all from the mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic properties of these substances. Consequently, these wastes pose a hazard, and the measures to be taken must also include those required by occupational health and safety provisions.
Blood and Bodily Fluids Waste This waste is to be assumed that it contains contaminated pathogens, this is not infectious waste as described below but it is waste that is contaminated with blood (human or animal), secretions, and excretions.
Managing infectious waste or highly infectious waste has special requirements. This is waste known or expected (based on experience) to be contaminated by causative agents of diseases and when contamination gives cause for the concern that the disease could spread.
Infectious Waste Some examples of Infectious waste are, blood from patients contaminated with HIV, viral hepatitis, brucellosis, Q fever. Feces from patients infected with typhoid fever, enteritis, cholera. Respiratory tract secretions from patients infected with TB, anthrax, rabies, poliomyelitis. Infectious waste is typically generated in isolation wards, dialysis wards, or centers caring for patients infected with hepatitis viruses.
Highly Infectious Waste Highly Infectious Waste is all microbiological cultures in which a multiplication of pathogens of any kind has occurred. This type of waste is typically generated in a laboratory type setting but can include medical practices as well. Examples of highly infectious waste include sputum cultures of TB laboratories, contaminated blood clots and glassware material generated in the medical analysis laboratories, high concentrated microbiological cultures carried out in medical analysis laboratories.
This category of waste is not exclusive to the healthcare sector. It can include gaseous, liquid and solid chemicals, waste with high contents of heavy metals such as batteries, pressurized containers, fluorescent light bulbs, and more.
Chemical waste consists of discarded chemicals that are generated during disinfecting procedures or cleaning processes. Not all of them are hazardous but some have toxic, corrosive, flammable, reactive, explosive, shock sensitive, cyto- or genotoxic properties. They must be used and disposed of according to the specifications provided with each type of chemical.
Waste with high contents of heavy metals and derivatives are potentially highly toxic. They are considered as a sub-group of chemical waste but should be treated specifically.
Pressurized containers consist of full or emptied containers or aerosol cans with pressurized liquids, gas or powdered materials.
Examples of other hazardous waste can include thermometers, blood-pressure gauges, photographic fixing and developing solutions in X-ray departments, halogenated or non-halogenated solvents, organic and in-organic chemicals.
Radioactive waste includes liquids, gases and solids contaminated with radionuclides whose ionizing radiations have genotoxic effects. There are two basic types of radiation used in a healthcare setting. An x-ray only emits radiation from the x-ray tubes when the generating equipment is on. Y-rays, a-, and b- particles emit radiations continuously.
Radioactive waste includes solid, liquid, and gaseous waste contaminated with radionuclides generated from in vitro analysis of body tissue and fluid, in vivo body organ imaging and tumor localization, and investigative and therapeutic procedures.
The employer shall train each employee with occupational exposure in accordance with the requirements. Such training must be provided at no cost to the employee and during working hours. The employer shall institute a training program and ensure employee participation in the program.
The below is an example training program for bloodborne pathogens and it shall contain at a minimum the following elements:
An accessible copy of the regulatory text of this standard and an explanation of its contents.
A general explanation of the epidemiology and symptoms of bloodborne diseases.
An explanation of the modes of transmission of bloodborne pathogens.
An explanation of the employer’s exposure control plan and the means by which the employee can obtain a copy of the written plan.
An explanation of the appropriate methods for recognizing tasks and other activities that may involve exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials.
An explanation of the use and limitations of methods that will prevent or reduce exposure including appropriate engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.
Information on the types, proper use, location, removal, handling, decontamination, and disposal of personal protective equipment.
An explanation of the basis for selection of personal protective equipment.
Information on the hepatitis B vaccine, including information on its efficacy, safety, method of administration, the benefits of being vaccinated, and that the vaccine and vaccination will be offered free of charge.
Information on the appropriate actions to take and persons to contact in an emergency involving blood or other potentially infectious materials.
An explanation of the procedure to follow if an exposure incident occurs, including the method of reporting the incident and the medical follow-up that will be made available.
Information on the post-exposure evaluation and follow-up that the employer is required to provide for the employee following an exposure incident.
An explanation of the signs and labels and/or color coding required by paragraph (g)(1); and
An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the person conducting the training session.
The person conducting the training shall be knowledgeable in the subject matter covered by the elements contained in the training program as it relates to the workplace that the training will address.
Additional Initial Training for Employees in HIV and HBV Laboratories and Production Facilities. Employees in HIV or HBV research laboratories and HIV or HBV production facilities shall receive the following initial training in addition to the above training requirements.
The employer shall assure that employees demonstrate proficiency in standard microbiological practices and techniques and in the practices and operations specific to the facility before being allowed to work with HIV or HBV.
The employer shall assure that employees have prior experience in the handling of human pathogens or tissue cultures before working with HIV or HBV.
In most cases, the facility is responsible for the waste they generate until it is rendered harmless and there is proof it has been rendered harmless. Hiring an experienced, professional healthcare waste disposal company can help your facility stay up to date on the latest regulations and provide a paper trail of your waste.
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.
As you can see there is a lot to consider in Healthcare Waste Management, it is often best to partner with a company who can walk you through the steps and ensure you have the best plan in place for your specific facility.
Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we own your healthcare waste from start to finish. We provide services to thousands of customers and have been in business for decades. We own our own treatment plants and directly employ the drivers that will come into your facility, our training, our employees, our trucks, and our destruction plants.
Should you have any questions or would simply like a quote on your services, contact one of our friendly staff today. We are always happy to help in any way we can. 888-427-5797
World Health Organization – Healthcare Waste
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/health-care-waste Accessed March 7, 2022.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens
https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030 Accessed March 7, 2022.
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