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Avoid Medical Waste Risks In The Workplace

How Does Your Facility Protect Workers From Medical Waste Risk?

Healthcare workers are exposed to medical waste risks every day. While their primary focus is on taking care of patients and keeping communities healthy, it’s important for these professionals to make sure that their own health and well-being are also a top priority.

How Can Healthcare Workers Avoid Medical Waste Risks?

Hand Washing

One of the most basic preventative measures to take in a healthcare setting is to wash hands regularly and often. The CDC recommends washing hands before procedures, after situations during which microbial contamination of hands is likely to occur, especially those involving contact with mucous membranes, blood or body fluids, and secretions or excretions, after handling specimens, such as urine collection cups, sharps, and blood vials, and after caring for an infected patient.

Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It’s important to perform a work area assessment to determine the potential hazards and select the appropriate PPE for adequate protection.

Gloves provide a barrier against infection. Gloves do not prevent sharps injuries, but the reduce the risk of contact contamination. They are single use items and are worn for procedures, blood draws, when cleaning up a contaminated space, to name a few.

Eyewear in the form of goggles or visors protects against splatter and foreign bodies during procedures and cleanup.

Masks provide barrier protection against splatter and airborne particles that can contaminate the face.

Using Proper Containers For Medical Waste

Common sense tells us that sharps do not belong in a regular trash receptacle, but you’d be surprised that there are still facilities whose staff improperly dispose of infectious waste. Sharps go in a sharps container, whereas red bag waste should contain anything that is infectious biological material, including blood and blood products, cultures, and culture stocks. This helps keep not only patients healthy, but healthcare workers, too.

Proper Training

While healthcare professionals are trained to do their jobs, education in medical waste disposal and safety is an ongoing process. The EPA and OSHA have resources for healthcare facilities to create a training program that will ensure the safety of workers. Failing to follow protocol and adequately train staff can result in the spread of infection, compromising not only customers and patients, but the environment as well. Protocols are constantly changing, so managers need to ensure that staff are always trained on the latest procedures and preventative measures.

Healthcare workers are not invincible and are more susceptible to medical waste risks given the nature of their jobs. With proper training and abiding by all regulations, those who work hard to take care of us can take care of themselves, too.

Medical Waste, Hazardous Waste and Pharmaceutical Waste

Not All Wastes Are Created Equal. Know The Differences Between Medical, Hazardous, And Pharmaceutical Wastes.

The U.S. is responsible for producing a hopping 220 million tons of waste a year.  Because of this, both the government and environmental associations have developed numerous methods of dealing with the problem through waste management.  Waste management is a rather complex issue that encompasses several industries, and the type of waste determines how and when it should be disposed of, and in what manner. Here are the key differences.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste is a rather broad category, but is defined as any type of waste that poses either a substantial or potential threat to public health and the environment.  This includes explosive waste, flammable liquids and solids, waste that is poisonous and toxic, and of course, waste that is infectious.

Once a material is deemed no longer useful and is ready for disposal, it is necessary to consider whether it can be safely and legally put in a dumpster for land filling, poured down the drain, or set aside as a hazardous waste for special disposal.  You should always refer to local and federal laws to see how to dispose of hazardous waste.

Medical Waste

Technically speaking, medical waste is hazardous waste.  There are many terms used to identify medical waste, including infectious waste, biological waste, medical waste, hospital waste, medical hazardous waste, microbiological waste, pathological waste, and red bag waste.  Medical waste comes in several forms, including solid and liquid.  Solid waste includes culture media, personal protective equipment that has been contaminated, and other materials, like sharps, pipette tips, glassware and more.  Liquid waste includes blood, blood products, and bodily fluids.  The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate biohazardous waste management under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary authority for regulating workplace standards and employee health and safety.

Pharmaceutical Waste

Like medical waste, pharmaceutical waste can also be considered hazardous waste.  Unused pharmaceuticals are a hazard for abuse and are a threat to the environment if disposed of improperly.  Reliable and concrete statistics are hard to come by, but it’s a safe assumption that we, as consumers, are responsible for a hefty percentage of the pharmaceutical and personal care products that wind up in lakes, rivers, and streams.  In a typical U.S. household, the medicine cabinet is full of unused and expired drugs, only a fraction of which get disposed of appropriately.

While the FDA has and still recommends flushing certain medications, the best course of action is to research a take-back program. Law enforcement, public health, and environmental professionals feel that these programs are the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted and expired medicines to protect your family and to protect our waters.

Knowing and understanding the different types of waste will help mitigate environmental risks as well as keep you in compliance.  Don’t takes guesses about the waste you produce. Know where to find the resources and technical assistance to help health care facilities comply with the law and protect the environment.

Regulated Medical Waste Vs. Personal Waste: What’s The Difference?

Knowing The Difference Between Personal Waste And Regulated Medical Waste.

You may not think twice about what you throw in the trash at home, but personal solid waste is vastly different than regulated medical waste.  The key difference?  Regulated medical waste (RMW) is any waste that contains or has been exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials, whereas municipal solid waste, commonly known as trash or garbage, includes all everyday thrown away household items.

RWM is a pretty broad category that covers many different types of waste and there are specific methods to deal with each kind.  In the medical waste field, there is infectious waste, hazardous waste, and radioactive waste, just to name a few.

In terms of personal solid waste, the average American produces 4.40 pounds of solid garbage or recyclables per day, according to the EPA.  This includes items such as food wrappers, mail papers, store receipts, food scraps, and other paper goods.  Many municipalities offer recycling programs for materials such as plastics, metals, paper, and boxes, which can greatly reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills.

Even some personal solid waste can fall under the regulated medical waste category just by its definition; RMW is waste that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials.  So why is that used bandage for a small cut not regulated in the same way as a blood-soaked bandage from the hospital?

Let’s look a little closer.

Infectious waste is probably the broadest category of RMW. This type of waste includes:

  • Waste cultures
  • Sharps
  • Discarded vaccines

Blood waste, including

  • Blood vials
  • Bandages, cloths, solid waste that contains blood
  • Sharps, tubing, and other items that are use to collect blood

Human bodily fluids, including

  • Blood
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Synovial fluid,
  • Pleural fluid, peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid, amniotic fluid, etc.

Infectious waste poses an environmental danger due to its biological risk.  It is imperative that large-scale RMW generators rely on a medical waste disposal company that is properly trained and certified to handle and dispose of said waste, not only for safety, but because it’s the law.

At home, while tossing that bandage seems innocuous, technically it’s supposed to be placed in a sealed packaging prior to throwing away in your household trash.  This is because it has the potential to cause infection.  The same goes for sharps waste at home, too.

While many states recommend that patients dispose of used syringes in sealed plastic containers, there is no mandate for them to do so at home, and the needles, sealed or not, will end up in the regular trash.  This is the biggest difference between personal waste and RMW.

There are, however, recommendations for at-home medical waste. The DEP recommends that people put the sharps in a puncture-resistant, hard plastic container.  This can come from many common household items, such as an empty laundry detergent bottle with a screw-on cap.  When the container is filled, it should be closed tightly and secured with heavy tape, placed in a paper bag and discarded with household trash.

The Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 established standards for segregation, packaging, labeling and marking, and storage of the medical waste, as well as record keeping requirements and the institution of penalties for non-compliance.  The MWTA called upon the EPA to examine various treatment technologies that we use today, such as incinerators and autoclaves, microwave units, and various chemical systems to reduce infectious and hazardous waste. Many laws vary on the state level, but the bottom line is that RMW is not the same as personal solid waste, and there are laws in place to properly dispose of it and treat it.

Regulated medical waste is a broad category of infectious waste and can be confusing, especially if you’re dealing with smaller-scale medical waste at home? Unsure of the regulations and laws in place? Contact us to to better understand personal versus regulated medical waste.

Management for Home Medical Waste

In  the 1980s beaches were being littered with disposed syringes, medications, and other healthcare-related waste. The need for proper medical waste removal was realized. Medical waste disposal is primarily regulated at the state level. Federal laws dictated the safety and efficacy of how each state implements waste removal, disposal, and treatment to prevent pollution and the spread of infection.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are implemented by EPA and are in place to protect the environment, conserve resources, and reduce the amount of waste being generated. RCRA gave the first regulations for the management of hazardous waste. This comprised the identification of solid and hazardous wastes, standards for generators of hazardous waste, standards for transporters of hazardous waste, and standards for hazardous waste disposal facilities.

We need to look at how medical waste is treated in terms of pollution beyond improper disposal. According to the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, medical incinerators were found to be significant sources of airborne mercury. Before 1997, over 90 percent of potentially infectious medical waste was incinerated. In 1994 the EPA’s Draft Dioxin Reassessment identified medical waste incineration as the single largest source of dioxin air pollution. Since then, the EPA shaped stringent emission standards for medical waste incinerators with the help of significant concerns over poor air quality.

Incineration is highly effective as a method to treat medical waste and it is still an acceptable treatment alternative in many states. The question remains about pollution and air quality.

85 percent of the total medical waste stream in hospitals consists of the same mixture of discarded plastic, paper, metal, glass and food waste that is found in ordinary household waste. The information provided by Greenpeace. The remaining 15 % is defined as infectious, which must be sterilized and treated before final disposal.

An estimated 45 % of infectious medical equipment from Western hospitals is reused via autoclaving. Autoclaving is a procedure that steam sterilizes infectious waste, and it allows for the reuse or recycling of medical equipment.

Precisely how much pollution occurs in the U.S. is unknown, but minimizing what is incinerated is the goal for healthcare facilities. Medical waste generators can decrease the quantity of PVC plastics, products, and packaging that are going to burning. Plastics should also be recycled to at least extent possible. Besides autoclaving, other treatment alternatives include hydropulping, chemical treatment, microwave, and irradiation.

Glycon LLC is committed to preserving the environment through our safe and effective medical waste disposal solutions. 90 percent of our medical waste is autoclaved, and we can provide the necessary equipment for proper segregation, labeling, and discarding, which is integral to safe disposal.

Contact us today to learn more about how you can reduce medical waste in your facility and do your part to decrease medical waste pollution.

The problem of treatment of medical waste pollution in the US.

Your home now produces medical waste that cannot go into the regular trash. it’s a more convenient option to manage care from home.

It’s a more convenient option to manage care from home. From diabetes to renal failure that requires dialysis treatment home medical care is an important aspect of managing a variety of diseases. It means your home now produces medical waste that cannot go into the regular trash.

It can be risky if you don’t dispose some items such as syringes, soiled bandages, used dialysis filters, needles, lancets, disposable sheets/clothing properly and safely.  Even old medication can seriously harm family, friends, and sanitation workers.

The primary type of at-home medical waste consists of sharps. Hypodermic needles, lancets, IV tubing with needles, glass tubes, and syringes no longer in their original containers are all considered sharps.

Medical sharps can poke through garbage bags causing injury to sanitation workers and others if you improperly throw them into household garbage. Children and pets may come in contact with the household garbage. Used needles can transmit serious diseases.

Managing Medical Waste At Home

Place needles, syringes, lancets and other contaminated sharps in any puncture-resistant and disposable household container. Medical waste management at home isn’t so difficult. However it still requires precision and care. Containers should be made of plastic or metal and have a small opening so no one can stick their hands into it.

An empty bleach bottle, laundry detergent bottle, or metal coffee cans can also be there.

At home, depending on your state, you can treat your own medical waste by filling the container with one part bleach solution and ten parts of water and allow the solution to soak for 20 minutes to sterilize your sharps. This solution can be poured into the sink, but then you must seal the cap with heavy-duty tape before placing the disposal container into the garbage. Not all municipalities may allow this, however. Many states have collection sites for sharps disposal.

Before you place soiled bandages, dialysis machine filters, disposable sheets, clothing, and medical gloves in the regular trash dispose of separately in securely fastened plastic bags.

Home medical care means making life as easy and convenient as possible for you and your home health aids. We know it well. Our company has safe and effective methods of medical waste disposal so you can do nothing but leave the medical waste worry to us. Don’t treat medical waste yourself, or if you’re unsure about collection sites.

No job is too big or too small for us.

Contact us today to discuss an option plan that works for you! (844) 494-8222

Top 5 Medical Waste Violations When Your Facility is Guilty

Is Your Facility Guilty Of These Common Medical Waste Violations?

In spite of the abundance of information on proper medical waste disposal and the laws that back this up, there are some public violations that people make with medical waste removal. It is an environmental and health issue that can be costly and detrimental if ignored. Not only is this compliance issue.

What Are Some Of The Top Medical Waste Violations?

Unreliable Training Of Staff

An efficient medical waste removal program is only as strong as the people who implement and follow it. Facilities employ the use of the resources available, not only because it’s the law, but a efficient program mitigates risk. Some agencies offer resources for medical waste producers to help prepare a training program.  This factors ensure the safety of workers, as well as decrease the chances of infection and contamination.

Not Proper Labeling Of Medical Waste And Biohazardous Waste Containers

Packaging includes sharps containers, plastic bags, biohazard containers, and reusable containers. Medical waste packaging and labeling in a facility that deals with regulated medical waste is the responsibility of the facility itself. Failure to comply with safe containment is both an environmental and community health issue. One that can comes with hefty fines.

Many states classify waste into sub-categorizes, such as human blood, cultures and stocks, blood products, sharps, and animal waste. Keeping types of medical waste separate and using properly marked containers is not only mandated by law. It also helps you choose how and when, not to mention whom removes the waste for you.

Failing To Plan

Every facility that produces medical waste must have a medical waste removal plan. Plans should reduce the amount of waste, ensure regulatory compliance, and strengthen infection control procedures. Not having a plan leads to discarding mistakes and risking the spread of infection.

Mishandling Of Medical Waste And Removal

Whoever signs the manifest for waste pickup must have had the proper OSHA/DOT training and knowledge behind the medical waste. If your average Joe signs for anything that involves medical waste, your facility will receive a citation for noncompliance.

Insufficient Signage

Hazardous waste needs special handling, disposal, and storage. In order to properly store and dispose of waste the EPA and DOT have requirements that must be met. Failure to post signage about restricted areas, hazardous containers, or infection control can put staff and patients at serious danger.

Failure to comply with government-mandated medical waste regulations can be a puzzling and costly experience. 
Do you want to find  a reliable medical waste management service to take care of your medical waste? Give us a call (844) 494-8222 and we’ll be happy to help!

Additional resources to help you avoid common medical waste violations & stay compliant:

  • Choosing the Right Sharps Containers for Your Facility
  • Improper Medical Waste Packaging: What You Need To Know
  • What Is NOT Considered Medical Waste?
  • Do I Need An OSHA Certification?