All About Medical Waste. Healthcare providers are required to complete a variety of tasks in order to comply with regulations related to the handling of medical waste. The regulation of medical waste is driven by the risk associated with this type of waste, rather than its volume or cost. Failure to manage medical waste appropriately poses risks to both employees and the community. Reducing the risk posed by medical waste can be challenging for healthcare organizations. However, developing an effective program doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some key strategies for establishing a successful Medical Waste Management Program (MWMP).
Medical waste is any waste that is generated during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of animals and humans. It also includes any waste generated from the production or administration of biologicals or pharmaceuticals. This can include items such as dressings, needles, syringes, and bulk blood or blood products. Healthcare organizations generate a wide variety of waste types, which pose differing levels of risk. It is the risk posed by the waste that drives the regulatory requirements. There are three main types of medical waste: Isolation waste, Sharps, and Red Bag Waste. Isolation waste is generated by hospitalized patients isolated to protect others from communicable disease. This type of waste can include items like dressings, clothing, masks, blood, swabs with blood or bodily fluids, cultures, and stocks of bacteria and viruses. Sharps waste is items such as needles, syringes, scalpel blades, or broken glass that can puncture the skin.
Medical waste management is the responsibility of the generators. These organizations are responsible for the generation, handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of all types of medical waste. The healthcare providers may generate medical waste that is also used in other industries, such as research laboratories. In these cases, the generator of the waste is responsible for managing it. Medical waste generators are responsible for tracking the types of waste they generate, managing the waste appropriately, and ensuring that their waste handlers are compliant. Healthcare providers may have medical waste generated at their facilities by other organizations. In these cases, the healthcare provider is responsible for ensuring the other organization handles the waste appropriately. Generators must also train, certify, and verify their medical waste handlers understand the proper handling, storage, treatment, and disposal processes set forth by policies and regulations.
Types of medical waste. Medical waste can be broken down into three main categories: Isolation Waste, Sharps, and Red Bag waste. Isolation Waste – Isolation waste is generated by hospitalized patients isolated to protect others from communicable disease. This type of waste can include items like dressings, clothing, masks, blood, swabs with blood or bodily fluids, cultures, and stocks of bacteria and viruses from an infectious patient. Isolation Waste may require special handling, packaging, and transportation to ensure its safe handling and disposal. Sharps Waste – This type of medical waste is items such as used needles, syringes, scalpel blades, or broken glass that can puncture the skin. Sharps waste is often generated in blood draw laboratories, surgical sites, and other areas where needles are used. Red Bag Waste – This type of medical waste is the most common, it is waste that has come into contact with infectious or potentially infectious biohazards and needs to be decontaminated before disposal at a sanitary landfill. Red bag waste includes items such as contaminated dressings and things that are caked with dry blood and can flake off when handling, or when compressed will drip blood.
Tracking the types of waste, you generate can be an effective way to ensure your program is operating efficiently. Some common recommendations are that healthcare organizations track the following data elements to effectively manage their medical waste: · Waste Stream – This element refers to the specific medical waste stream being generated, such as chemotherapy waste or red bag waste. · Waste Category – This is the specific type of waste within the waste stream, such as sharps or blood-contaminated materials. · Waste Origin – This element refers to the specific location where the waste is generated, such as the operating room or emergency room. · Waste Handling – This refers to the specific handling procedures used to manage the waste, such as the method of packaging, decontamination methods, and transportation type.
Employees are the frontline of every healthcare organization. They are also the primary drivers of successful compliance with regulations related to medical waste. It is essential for organizations to provide ongoing compliance training for employees responsible for managing medical waste. The training should include information on the types of waste generated, the appropriate handling procedures for each type, and how to track the waste stream through the organization. Employees involved in the transportation of medical waste even if it is just from generation points to storage areas should receive specialized training in transporting procedures.
Managing different types of medical waste requires different handling procedures. In general, different types of medical waste should be stored in different containers, packaged in different ways, and stored using different methods. To effectively manage your medical waste, you should establish handling procedures for each type of waste. Handling procedures include the following elements: – Container type – Container size – Container location – Container usage – Container decontamination – Container transportation – Container disposal Container type – Containers are the basic unit of packaging medical waste. They are used to contain, suspend, and transport waste from the point of generation to the point of disposal. Containers come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and designs. They are designed for use in specific environments, such as a blood spill in a hospital room, or a sharps disposal container at a health care facility. Container size – It is essential for containers to be appropriately sized for the amount of waste they are designed to hold. All containers used for medical waste must be clearly marked to indicate the type of waste they are intended to hold, such as infectious waste, red bag waste, or sharps waste. Container location – Containers used to store medical waste should be stored in a manner that prevents them from being misused, such as containers used to store red bag waste being used to store sharps waste, proper segregation is a key element to a successful medical waste management program. Containers should also be stored in a manner that prevents them from being spilled, tipped over, or being otherwise improperly handled. Container usage – Containers should be clearly marked as to the type of medical waste they are intended to hold. It is also important that containers not be used for purposes other than intended, such as using a red bag waste container to store chemotherapy waste. Container decontamination – All reusable containers used to store medical waste should be decontaminated after each use, when working with a medical waste management company this is done off-site. The specific decontamination methods will depend on what types of waste are being held in the container. Container transportation – Containers used to store medical waste should be transported in a manner that ensures the waste is properly contained during transportation and handling. Containers should be stacked and transported in a manner that prevents the containers from being spilled, tipped over, or otherwise improperly handled. Container disposal – Containers used to store medical waste must be properly disposed of at the end of their useful life. Containers must be decontaminated before disposal, and proper documentation must be maintained when disposing of medical waste containers.
Many healthcare organizations have succeeded in meeting their medical waste management challenges with in-house programs. However, almost all of these programs have also found it helpful to partner with a full-service medical waste vendor. This type of vendor provides a range of services, such as program management, waste handling and transportation, training, and regulatory compliance assistance. The partnership with a full-service medical waste vendor can provide significant benefits for your organization, including: – Reduced risk related to managing medical waste – Protecting employee health and safety – Reducing risk of negative publicity – Reducing risk of fines and penalties – Increasing operational efficiency – Improved compliance with regulations – Reduced overall medical waste costs.
Medical waste management is a complex process that requires the coordinated effort of employees across different disciplines and departments. Healthcare organizations that establish a clear plan for managing medical waste can effectively meet their regulatory obligations and reduce the risk posed to employees and the community.
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