According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of all waste generated by healthcare activities is considered hazardous material which may be infectious, toxic or radioactive. Improper disposal of hazardous medical waste jeopardizes human health and our environment. Here we share four medical waste disposal facts you should know.
Fact 1: Medical Waste Isn’t Just Generated by Hospitals
Medical waste is usually associated with traditional healthcare facilities. But in addition to hospitals and doctors’ offices, many other types of businesses and institutions generate medical waste, including:
- Funeral homes
- Prisons, jails and detention centers
- Dental practices
- Schools and universities
- Tattoo and piercing parlors
It’s crucial that all medical waste is properly disposed of.
Fact 2: All Medical Waste Should be Categorized
There are many types of medical waste, each with its own disposal requirements. “Red Bag” waste refers to medical waste containing liquid, semi-liquid or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). The red plastic bags that identify this type of waste should be of sufficient thickness to contain all waste and prevent leaks and tears. They should be tightly closed prior to transport and labeled with the international biohazard symbol.
Another type of medical waste, known as “sharps,” refers to–but isn’t limited to—the following items:
- Syringes, needles and lancets
- Culture slides and dishes
- Broken capillary tubes
- Exposed ends of dental wires and root canal files
Sharps should always be placed in puncture-resistant containers before being put in a red bag.
Trace chemotherapy waste should be placed in a yellow bag or container, while pharmaceutical waste that includes pills, injectables and antibiotics should always be disposed of in a black bag or container.
In order to comply with state and federal regulations, all medical waste must be categorized as hazardous or non-hazardous. Labels must be visible on all sides of waste containers and describe the category of waste.
Fact 3: Medical Waste Disposal is Regulated
The disposal of medical waste is regulated by state environmental and health departments and the following federal agencies:
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Department of Transportation (USDOT)
Georgia and Alabama are among the 26 states covered entirely by the federal OSHA program. OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standards (OEBPS) govern various aspects of medical/infectious waste, including sharps management, requirements for containers that hold or store medical/infectious waste, the labeling of medical/infectious waste bags/containers, and employee training.
Non-compliance with OSHA standards and other local, state and federal laws can result in heavy fines. For example, in June 2016, a facility in Pennsylvania was fined $451,000 for medical waste disposal violations. In addition to proper waste disposal, the right medical waste provider can provide employee compliance training to help keep your organization compliant with many state and federal regulations.
Fact 4: Medical Waste Companies Must be Certified
To meet legal requirements, your medical waste disposal service must be fully permitted. A professional medical waste company takes legal possession of your medical waste once it leaves your facility, and is permitted to transport and transfer it for disposal. Red Bag Waste is transported to a permitted autoclave facility, while pathogenic, pharmaceutical, and trace chemotherapy waste is transported to an incineration facility.
If your facility generates medical waste, we urge you to become familiar with these facts and use them to create a safe, sustainable and compliant medical waste management program for your organization.
River Mill Data Management provides medical waste disposal services to businesses in central and South Georgia, as well as select counties in eastern Alabama through its sister company, Med Away Disposal Services, which also services southeast Alabama. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.