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When is Medical Waste Most Hazardous?



December 17, 2020



When is Medical Waste Most Hazardous?

Medical waste is any material that contains infectious or potentially infectious agents. Regulated medical waste is governed by local, state and federal guidelines for handling, storage, and ultimate disposal. The guidelines involve many organizations, training, equipment, and procedures to ensure that medical waste follows compliance. The problems happen when any of these steps are missed, allowing the waste to enter a state where it can become potentially hazardous.

The Moment of Generation

Medical waste that is created has to be appropriately handled at the moment it is generated. This means that each and every step must follow the guidelines for that particular medical waste type. Appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), containers, storage, transport, and disposal each have specific guidelines to make sure that the medical waste doesn’t become hazardous.

Lack of Proper Training

Each state has specific OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training guidelines for staff that is involved with medical waste. The certification process assists in ensuring that employees understand and comply with the laws involving all aspects of medical waste.  Hazardous situations can occur when a staff member makes a mistake due to lack of proper training and allows the medical waste to be put in a position of potential exposure. This can involve a variety of conditions from needle sticks to putting the medical waste in the wrong containers.

Improper Containers and Storage

There are specific types of bags and containers that are required for the various medical waste types. Use of improper containers can result in leaks, spills, and other hazardous accidents. Storing the containers also require compliance with specific guidelines so that the contents are kept in temperature controlled environments, away from pests, and unauthorized people. A breach of these rules can result in hazardous medical waste being exposed.

Improper Labeling and Disposal

Labeling of medical waste is critical for a medical waste disposal company to take the proper action for each medical waste type for disposal. Lack of labeling or mislabeling can result in a medical waste disposal company making an error in the disposal/destruction process. Placing medical waste with normal trash or garbage can result in a danger or hazard to the environment and potential exposure of infectious waste to humans. Waste that is found in landfills are affected by sunlight and other trash that slowly breaks them down. The process releases germs into the soil, groundwater and air, letting a potential infection to the community. Licensed and trained medical waste companies make use of sterilization processes for certain medical wastes. If these are mislabeled or in the wrong containers, the procedures can cause some medical waste to be hazardous.

Lack of Emergency Procedures in case of an Accident

Every organization that is involved in generating, transporting and the destruction medical waste is required to have emergency procedures and training set in place in the case of an accident. The emergency procedure information and the supplies and equipment involved in actions taken to circumvent a medical waste accident are reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Lack of training or supplies can result in exposure of the medical waste which can be hazardous to people and the environment. All licensed and trained medical waste disposal companies have continual training for staff and drivers to ensure that they can deal with and handle a medical waste accident to maintain safety.

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