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Medical Waste Disposal Best Practices

The medical waste industry is very complex and dynamic. With so many different types of medical waste, different rules and regulations from federal, state, and local entities, it can quickly become challenge managing all requirements.  Compounding this is the fact that improper management of this waste stream can result in meaningful impacts to both the environment and the generators of these materials. Some of these impacts could include contamination of groundwater, public endangerment, impacts to your practice’s reputation, and significant fines for the generator of medical waste.  Making sure to exercise proper disposal and to work with a service provider that shares your commitments to medical waste disposal best practices is a choice that reflects positively on the environment as well as the integrity of your company.

If your facility has medical waste, the law says it is up to the generator to determine how to best dispose of it.  Follow the best practices below to safely and efficiently dispose of your medical waste at your location.

  1. Complete a waste audit to determine what your practice is generating.

The first thing that should be fully considered is whether or not wastes generated at your practice are potentially infectious and, if so, how might they be further classified.  Infectious waste is classified as waste contaminated by things like blood, body fluids, or other potentially harmful materials that can infect and harm humans or the environment. Unlike infectious waste, non-infectious waste can be disposed of with solid waste.

You should also determine if you have pathological or pharmaceutical waste.  Pathological waste, includes things like carcasses, tissues, and body parts.  Pharmaceutical waste includes unused medications and contaminated packaging.  Knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step.   It is a critical component that supports all of the proceeding activities involving these materials including proper storage, identification, transportation, treatment, and disposal of these wastes.

As desired, Envirolaska is available to assist your practice in the evaluation of medical waste generation at your location.  Our goal with these exercises is to help ensure that wastes are not only properly managed, but minimized to the greatest extent possible to boost the delivered value of our services and support longer term relationships with our customers.

  1. Ensure that your practice is utilizing proper containers.

Medical waste containers have certain distinct requirements per OSHA and DOT regulations.  These requirements primarily specify labeling and the container’s design characteristics.  As an example, all sharps waste, such as needles, must be placed in puncture resistant OSHA approved containers to protect all involved as these wastes are transported and treated.  As another example, both OSHA and DOT maintain specific requirements for the proper labeling of medical waste which include requirements for how waste containers are marked.

To properly transport medical waste, all medical waste must be placed in approved containers as an initial step. These containers must communicate OSHA required labeling and certain information about the design characteristics of the packaging, universal markings, along with specific waste identifiers communicated in specific language.  Depending on the type of medical waste, the generator must also understand the requirements of identification and segregation of specific medical wastes (i.e. pathology waste, chemotherapy waste, infectious waste, etc.).  With any hazardous material, proper packaging is important and while your service provider may supply collection containers, it is ultimately the responsibility of the generator to ensure that they are compliant.  Any box or tub simply will not do and the use of non-compliant containers adds additional liability to your practice which you, as the generator of these wastes, remain responsible for.

Consider also the practice of having wastes transferred to secondary containers prior to removal from your practice.  When you execute a waste manifest, you are making a legal statement certifying that wastes have been packaged by yourself, are correct as indicated in the manifest, and are accepting of responsibility for these materials as a generator.  If you are currently serviced in this fashion, you have effectively been asked to make false statements with these declarations.  Due to the inherent liabilities associated with medical wastes, this is important to consider because of the unnecessary risk this activity can add to your practice.

It should be noted that best practice within the industry is to replace containers with each service.  Beyond the sanitation concerns of re-using existing containers which can be harbors for infectious pathogens, repackaging prior to transport presents a new level of liability that should be a consideration to your practice.

All of Envirolaska’s containers are OSHA and DOT approved for the collection and transportation of medical waste.

  1. Utilize transportation and destruction records that are clear, accurate, and able to be easily managed within your practice.

Proper documentation is an essential component of the medical waste disposal activity.  Each container of generated medical waste should have accompanying paperwork throughout the transportation and destruction process.  This documentation, which is noted in hazardous waste manifests, must also follow specific formats and contain specific information in order to meet federal requirements.

The hazardous waste manifest process is also important for both the generator and your service provider.  If this paperwork is inaccurate or missing, the liability rests with the generator of that waste, however, creates complications for all involved parties.  Thus, it is important that this documentation is accurate, accessible, and in conformance with regulations.

To improve the visibility of Alaska’s medical waste stream with our customers, Envirolaska utilizes a fully compliant electronic manifest system.  This process ensures compliance, reduces errors, and makes information more accessible to all involved parties.  In addition, the utilization of an electronic system also makes the record management process much more efficient so that our customers no longer have to sort and manage multiple paper based records.  All information is organized, presented clearly, and accessible 24/7 through our secure customer portal.  We are the only service provider in Alaska to offer such a service and we do so free of charge.

  1. Work with dedicated service providers who share your commitments to safety, compliance, and professionalism.

It is important to remember that medical waste remains the responsibility of the generator even after it has been taken off site and in the possession of your service provider.  Thus, it is very important to choose a reliable provider that demonstrates a commitment to safety, compliance, and professionalism. Not only should your provider clearly understand and follow all regulations regarding transport and disposal, but they should also be able to serve as a resource in helping your own practice understand and manage your requirements in an efficient manner.

Thus, choosing the right provider will make your facility’s entire medical waste disposal process smooth and easy.  Envirolaska provides all the right options to make this possible.  From our compliance training offerings to our collection and disposal services, we can make your medical waste disposal as simple and hassle-free as possible which helps you to keep your focus on quality patient care.

Contact Envirolaska today for a no-obligation service quote and savings analysis.

1 reply
  1. Taylor Bishop
    Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for going over some good practices for medical waste. I’m glad that this article mentions the importance of having the right paperwork for transportation and destruction of hazardous waste materials. As far as I know, these materials can be extremely dangerous if they are not handled correctly. Having these directions and regulations protects people from harm, and ensures that they will be used appropriately.

    Reply

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