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Medical Waste Handling 101

Medical waste handling processes vary from state to state, but it’s important to know how to differentiate between different categories of medical waste in order to be able to properly segregate and dispose of them.  In general, anything that has come into contact with blood or body fluids (such as soiled dressings, sponges, drapes, lavage tubes, drainage sets, under-pads, and surgical gloves) falls under the category of infectious medical waste. As for the specifics, medical waste categories can, for the most part, be broken down into the following seven types.

1) Cultures and Stocks

What it is:

Infectious agents and associated biologicals, including cultures from medical and pathological laboratories; cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research and industrial laboratories; waste from the production of biologicals; discarded live and attenuated vaccines; and culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures.

What’s done with it:

Cultures and stocks can be packaged for disposal by an outside contractor.  Although states do not require it, many hospitals implement a policy of autoclaving this type of medical waste in the laboratory itself, out of fear that these highly-infectious specimens are more liable to cause infections to their handlers in the event of inadvertent exposure.

2) Human Blood and Blood Products

What it is:

Waste blood, serum, plasma and blood products.

What’s done with it:

This material can be packaged for disposal by an outside contractor.  Although states do not require it, many hospitals implement a policy of autoclaving this type of medical waste depending on where it is generated, out of fear that these highly-infectious materials are more liable to cause infections to their handlers in the event of inadvertent exposure.

3) Pathological Waste

What it is:

Pathological waste includes tissues, organs, body parts, and body fluids removed during surgery and autopsy.  From a microbiological standpoint, this type of material is not really different from cultures and stocks; but from a waste management standpoint, the States may require other management conditions.

What’s done with it:

Pathological wastes are always packaged separately for disposal, and typically incinerated. Some medical waste disposal companies have received approval for a ‘greener’ solution which entails sanitizing pathological waste through microwaves, after which the treated waste may be disposed of as ordinary solid waste in a waste-to-energy plant or landfill.

4) Sharps

What it is:

Sharps include hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, broken glass or other contaminated items that could potentially create a puncture wound or cut.

What’s done with it:

Sharps are collected separately, in puncture-proof containers.  Some medical waste disposal companies provide disposable sharps containers; others treat and return the facility’s reusable containers.

5) Chemotherapeutic Waste

What it is:

Chemotherapeutic wastes are drugs or agents utilized in chemotherapy and considered hazardous waste by USEPA-RCRA.  These are generally categorized by the EPA as P or U-listed wastes.

What’s done with it:

Due to its highly toxic nature, chemotherapy waste gets segregated in its own containers, with different labeling and colors so that it doesn’t get mixed up with the general medical waste.  This type of waste must be packaged in DOT approved containers, and removed by a hazardous waste disposal company (as opposed to a standard medical waste disposal company), after which it is generally incinerated.

6) Trace Chemotherapy Waste

What it is:

Trace chemotherapy waste includes items that have been used in administering chemotherapy (such as needles, syringes, etc.), and have come into contact with chemotherapy agents.

What’s done with it:

These items may be classified as regulated medical waste or as hazardous medical waste, depending on the type of chemical with which they have come into contact.  If the chemotherapy agent was a U-listed waste and the container meets the EPA’s empty container rule, the EPA considers trace chemotherapy articles to be regulated medical waste; however, if the chemotherapy agent was a P-listed waste, the item would have to be segregated as regulated hazardous waste (RCRA waste) and disposed of as such.

7) Isolation Waste

What it is:

Medical waste that has come into contact with a highly contagious or dangerous infectious disease – such as tuberculosis or ebola, which receives a Level 4 biomedical waste safety designation for handling as a DOT Div. 6.2 Category A Infectious substance

What’s done with it:

Different facilities maintain differing policies when it comes to the segregation and storage of isolation waste; but in general, the goal is to keep it separate so as to avoid the risk of infection.  For instance, some facilities may mandate autoclaving on hospital premises, or separate packaging and containers.

What a Regulated Medical Waste Management Service Can Do for You

If you’re in the medical services field, whether research or patient administration, you probably deal with a lot of regulated medical waste (RMW), which must be disposed of properly according to both state and federal laws.

It’s an important part of running a medical business, since you don’t want to risk contaminating others with

However, waste management isn’t easy to handle yourself. Your specialty should be in running the business or administering to your patients, not carting off the waste. Thankfully, medical waste management programs can help.

These programs have been created to meet the needs of health institutions and can handle any aspect of medical waste services, from proper disposal to adhering to compliance regulations. Here are some of the ways that an RMW management service can help you.

Know the Ins and Outs of RMW

A quality RMW management company is extremely knowledgeable about handling and disposing of RMW in the safest manner possible. An RMW will collect anything that qualifies as bio-hazardous waste or RMW, including:

  • Pathological Waste: tissues, organs, body parts, and bodily fluids
  • Human Blood and Blood Products: blood, serum, plasma
  • Infectious Agents (Microbiological Waste): culture dishes, discarded vaccines (live and attenuated), and any devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix specimens
  • Contaminated Sharps: hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass
  • Isolation Waste: waste from patients in quarantine

Your RMW management service will dispose of each of these waste products according to state and federal law; 90 percent of the time that means the waste will be incinerated at a secure facility.

If a state does not allow incineration based on MWI standards, the waste will be disposed of through microwave technology, steam sterilization, electro pyrolysis, or chemical mechanical systems. Your RMW management service will know exactly how your waste should be disposed of and make it happen for you.

Pick Up Services

Most RMW services will have their own fleet of delivery trucks to pick up your medical waste.

They can provide you with designated bins for solid bio hazardous waste (contaminated non-sharps), liquid bio hazardous waste (blood products, fluids), bio hazardous sharps (needles, scalpels), and pathological waste (organs, tissues). Each waste has its own processing to go through after being disposed, so the bins make it easier on everyone involved.

They can provide you with designated bins for solid bio hazardous waste (contaminated non-sharps), liquid bio hazardous waste (blood products, fluids), bio hazardous sharps (needles, scalpels), and pathological waste (organs, tissues). Each waste has its own processing to go through after being disposed, so the bins make it easier on everyone involved.

After the waste has left your hands and is set out for pickup, you won’t have to think about it again. The professionals at RMW management facilities will use the utmost care when handling the waste and

The professionals at RMW management facilities will use the utmost care when handling the waste and transferring it to the disposal site. Also, assuming the matter was disposed of correctly, once the waste has left your property and entered the hands of the RMW specialists, you are released from liability.

Improve Your Processes

If you’re spending more time worrying about taking care of your medical waste than attending to your business or services, that’s an inefficient use of your time. An RMW company can help you improve your processes and save you valuable resources.

Once you sign on with an RMW servicer, they will give you guidelines and standards to follow when disposing of your waste. That way, you can ensure that you’re adhering to all regulations and won’t have any legal problems or safety hazards on your hands.

A waste management service is especially beneficial when it comes to surgical procedures. You’re probably interested in making the operating room more sustainable and functional, right? There are several steps you can take to maintain a green operating room, and a waste management company can help.

These include educating the staff on waste management, conducting waste audits, removing waste immediately following surgeries, and offering reusable waste containers.

They will also work with your schedule to pick up your waste and arrange a time that’s convenient for you. Overall, you can spend your time helping patients and clients instead of focusing on the technical aspects of the job.

Reduce Your Waste Management Costs

Though it seems like you’d be able to save money by disposing of your medical waste yourself, that’s not always true. You could fall victim to unnecessary fees and services at disposal facilities, not to mention an increased labor cost for those assigned to take care of the disposal.

A good RMW service will help you cut through the red tape at disposal facilities and find you the best deals for their services. If you find the right company, they can actually help you to save money on your disposal processes.

As you choose a company that’s right for you, look for a service that will calculate a fair rate specifically for your company.

Too many companies will charge you a flat rate for their services, even if your waste disposal is irregular. You need a company that will charge you based on how much you’ll use the service. Also, avoid companies that will charge you a one-size-fits-all compliance fee.

With this in mind, recognize that you can find a quality service that works with you, without being forced to pay costly and unnecessary fees.


Why Is It So Important That Medical Waste Be Taken Care of Properly?

surgical wasteLaissez Faire can be a good idea and all, but there are certain industries that absolutely need government regulation.

Namely, the hospital waste treatment industry.

Here’s why:

A Large Portion of Hospital Wastes Are Dangerous.
There are four different types of medical waste. There’s general waste, infectious medical waste, radioactive waste, and hazardous waste.

General waste refers to the type of garbage and trash you might normally find in a household, and makes up about 80% of the waste generated by healthcare activities. However, 20% of all medical waste is still a lot.

Health care facilities generate about 2 million tons of medical and surgical wastes each year, which breaks down to about 5,500 tons of waste generated each day. That’s 1,100 tons — 2,200,000 pounds — of hospital and surgical wastes that’s considered to be dangerous, the majority of which (15%) is infectious and anatomic waste.

Hazardous Medical Waste Can Pose a Huge Threat to People’s Health.
If hospital and surgical wastes are mishandled, people could get hurt, sick, or infected. Each year, about 16 billion injections are administered across the world, but not all are properly disposed of. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), some 260,000 new HIV infections were directly related to the mismanagement of needles and syringes.

Mishandling Medical Waste Can Negatively Impact the Environment.
If not handled correctly, hospital and surgical wastes could wind up severely damaging the environment. One of the most common medical waste disposal methods is incineration. Though it works quite well, it can actually pollute the environment if not done correctly.

During the Ebola crisis, Liberia was warned not to use old incinerators to destroy all of the hospital and surgical waste produced by the pandemic by WHO, as it could release chemicals into the air and pollute the West African country’s environment. However, the overwhelming amount of medical waste produced by Ebola forced the nation to use them.

Hospital and surgical wastes need to be handled correctly.

If not, people could get hurt.

If you have any questions about how medical waste is managed, feel free to share in the comments.

How Do Hospitals Get Rid of Medical Waste?

surgical wasteBelieve it or not, medical facilities produce about 2 millions tons of hospital wastes every year. This absurd amount of waste is broken down into four types: general, hazardous, radioactive, and infectious medical wastes. While the vast majority (85%) of these hospital wastes are general and can be tossed away like trash, the other 15% need to be handled with more care, lest the dangerous garbage pose a threat to the public and to the environment.

Although 15% doesn’t sound like too much, that’s still more than half a billion pounds of dangerous waste. If it can’t be tossed out, then how do medical facilities deal with it all?

One of the most common medical waste disposal methods used to treat chemical and surgical wastes is incineration, which is the controlled burning of medical waste in an incinerator. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, incineration is used to treat about 90% of surgical wastes. However, some states, including California, prohibit the incineration of surgical waste.

If the medical waste isn’t incinerated, then chances are that it’s autoclaved. Autoclaves are closed chambers that use both heat and pressure (and sometimes they use steam) to sterilize medical equipment. They destroy microorganisms on surgical waste, like scalpels, so that the tools can be reused, and they eliminate all the microorganisms that might have been present in medical waste before it’s put in a landfill. Essentially, autoclaving allows doctors to reuse tools, and makes garbage safe to go in landfills.

With such a massive amount of waste being generated by the healthcare industry, medical facilities need to have a way to effectively and efficiently treat and dispose of medical waste.

Incineration and autoclaving are the two most popular medical waste disposal practices around. If you have any questions about how chemical and surgical wastes are disposed, feel free to ask in the comments.

How to Safely and Properly Throw Away Old Medicines

chemical wasteHospitals and health care facilities might have their own, highly regulated, infectious medical waste disposal methods, but what about homeowners? What is the everyday individual to do with the medical hazardous waste and chemical waste they may wind up producing at home?

For decades, people were told to dump their medical and chemical wastes down the toilets, but then in 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled 130 streams in 30 different states, and found that 80% of them had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones. As it turned out, flushing hospital wastes and chemical wastes down the toilet was a fairly destructive practice.

Nowadays, there’s a much safer, environmentally friendly way to dispose of chemical wastes. Here’s how.

Determine If Prescriptions Are Expired.
Determining the expiration date of a drug is a fairly difficult thing to do. Although manufacturers print a “use by” date on their bottles or packages, this number does not necessarily mean it isn’t safe to take the medicine after the date has passed. However, for a patient’s safety, it’s best to toss medicines that have either reached, or almost reached, their expiration dates, as the stability of the drug cannot be guaranteed.

Mix Them With Coffee Grounds and Toss Them.
When throwing out expired, or unwanted medicines, it’s best to mix the chemical waste with old, used coffee grounds. Put grounds in a plastic, seal-able container, and mix the medicine in so that it’s not just on the bottom or on the top, but thoroughly in there. Then, close and seal the container, and throw it away.

Bring Them to a Drop Off Site.
There are also drop off sites patients can use to dispose of their old, expired medicines, too. Typically, police stations and pharmacies have such drop off sites, and if they don’t, they’ll be able to let you know where you can find one.

The medical and chemical waste disposal service industry is worth $5 billion for a reason. Hospitals and patients generate an exorbitant amount of medical waste every day, after all. One ebola patient, for example, will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste in a single day. Yet, it’s also not a perfect industry — about 16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards, for example — which is all the more reason you need to be careful about how you dispose of medical and chemical waste at home.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Guide To Disposing Medical Waste at Home

infectious medical wasteInfectious medical wastes are pretty dangerous, and if not disposed of properly, can pose a serious health risk to health care practitioners, hospital patients, waste management employees, the environment, and even the general public. It’s why hospitals use different regulated medical waste disposal methods, such as incineration or autoclaving.

But what do you do with infectious medical wastes when you’re at home? Are you supposed to burn them? Hire a hospital wastes treatment service to take care of it? Can you just throw them away?

While infectious medical wastes do need to be treated differently than general wastes, it’s fairy easy to correctly dispose of them at home. Here’s how.

Cap Sharps Before Tossing Them.

Every year, about 16 billion injections are administered worldwide. Yet, not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards. If you need to administer injections at home, you cannot just throw the needles — the infectious medical wastes — away. The Environmental Protection Agency advises self-injectors to toss their needles at supervised collection sites, use mail-back programs, participate in syringe exchange programs, or invest in at-home needle destruction devices.

Don’t Just Toss Old Medicines in the Trash.

Expired and/or unwanted medicines cannot just be thrown away, nor flushed unless the label says they can. The EPA instead suggests mixing unwanted or expired medicines — including over-the-counter drugs — in used coffee grounds, which should then be placed in airtight containers. Only then are they ready to be tossed.

Get Rid of Used Tissues.

Although this should be common sense, it is still important to note. Used tissues spread diseases, and should not be left around. Although most people who are sick are also fatigued and could care less about throwing things away, used tissues still need to be tossed, and tossed quickly. Otherwise, the sickness will spread.

If infectious medical wastes weren’t disposed of properly, everyone would be at risk. It’s why hospital waste treatment services make up a $5 billion industry, and why you need to take care of infectious medical waste properly when you’re at home.

If you have any questions infectious medical waste, let us know in the comments.

The Most Common OSHA Violations in the Healthcare Industry

According to a news release posted on EHSToday.com, OSHA is really ramping up how much it charges businesses in violation of their standards.

The agency recently raised fines for the first time since 1990, with the fine jumping from $70,000 to $124,709 for a single willful or repeat violation. The fine for a serious or other-than-serious violation can range from $7,000 to $12,471.

Michael Rubin, a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP also says there’s something else that goes along with these hefty fines, which he calls “the shame game.”

According to Rubin, this means OSHA will also create press releases and make efforts to shame businesses that have violations.

That makes it m ore important than ever for healthcare-related businesses to be proactive in avoiding these fines and consequences.

Below are some of the most common OSHA violations seen in the healthcare industry.

Lack of Training Under the BBP Standard
The BBP Standard refers to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, and it is amended based on the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000. This standard describes how workers should be protected and protect themselves against the health hazards of bloodborne pathogens.

Some of the areas it covers include control plans, personal protective equipment, housekeeping, hazard communication and training, and recordkeeping.

Part of complying with this frequently cited regulation includes how regulated waste is removed.

Many of the top citations revolve around the BBP standard, including not just failure to train but also a failure to implement and maintain control plans, and failure to keep training records and a Sharps Injury Log.

Failing to Provide Material Safety Data Sheets
OSHA requires safety data sheets, and they are designed to provide information identifying materials as well as their potential hazards. Data sheets should also include composition and details on ingredients, as well as first-aid measures if someone has been exposed to something listed on the sheet.

Other details on required data sheets include how to respond to an accidental release, how they should be handled and stored, proper exposure controls and personal protection, and more, such as how they should be disposed of.

Not Training Employees On the Hazard Communication Standard
The final citation that’s frequently given to medical facilities including not only hospitals but also smaller doctor’s offices and clinics involves not training employees on the Hazard Communication Standard.

In order to remain compliant, healthcare businesses are meant to train their employees on the HaCom/GHS Standard and write their Hazard Communication Program for their facility.

Part of this also includes the creation and maintenance of Safety Data Sheets.

For healthcare businesses and facilities that are concerned about the rigorous OSHA standards and the potential to receive a citation, working with MedAssure can help make sure you remain compliant.

MedAssure delivers OSHA and other training services and also helps healthcare facilities exceed regulatory standards. It’s important for healthcare businesses to stay proactive as they put in place means to avoid OSHA citations.

Who’s REALLY Servicing Your Facility’s Medical Waste? You’ll Be Surprised To Find Out

Did you know that many healthcare facilities make use of regulated medical waste disposal services that cannot necessarily be trusted to maintain the high quality of service needed to deliver maximum safety?

Unbeknownst to hospitals and other facilities, these “medical waste disposal” companies will actually outsource most, if not all, of the work associated with the disposal job.

This means you can never be precisely sure who will be fulfilling the pick-ups and treatment, and in addition, you are probably overpaying to surgical wastecover the costs of the middle-man.

This can potentially lead to oversights or other problems that your own organization might be held accountable for down the line.

Why should you take on that level of risk?

Rest Assured With Medassure

MedAssure uses a completely different business model. We handle the entire process, from the initial collection of the medical waste all the way through to the final disposal in one of our own treatment facilities.

Because we maintain a complete in-house workforce, you can rest assured that every step is taken according to the highest standards of the industry and you are receiving significant savings in costs compared to other companies.

Medical waste represents a significant health hazard and improper disposal can result in massive liability.

Contact MedAssure today if you want to be assured that all of your medical waste has been taken care of appropriately.

How to Properly Take Care of Medical Waste at Home

Believe it or not, there are about 2 million tons of medical wastes produced every year, 20% of which is considered to be infectious, toxic, or even radioactive. This means that every year, 800 million pounds of dangerous biohazard wastes are produced.

Though each health care facility has a medical waste treatment company helping it dispose of these hazardous materials, not every single piece of dangerous waste gets taken care of properly.

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that in the year 2000 alone, syringes that hadn’t been properly disposed of wound up causing 21 million hepatitis B virus infections, 2 million hepatitis C virus infections, and 260,000 HIV infections around the world.

The saddest part is that medical waste removal isn’t hard to do properly. You just need to know how to do it.

If you have to dispose of medical materials at home, here are a few tips on the treatment of medical waste to help you take care of things properly.

How to Get Rid of Sharps
If you need to dispose of needles, syringes, lancets, or other sharp medical waste, you need to put them in a puncture-proof plastic container.

The proper treatment of medical waste such as this then calls for you to tape the lid closed, and store it away from children. When ready to be tossed, the whole container should be put in with the other trash.

How to Get Rid of Contaminated Materials
The proper treatment of medical waste like soiled or bloody gauze, gloves, and bandages requires the patient to put the materials in a sealed bag, and put it in a trashcan with a tight lid to avoid attracting animals.

How to Get Rid of Medicationstreatment of medical waste
In order to handle the proper treatment of medical waste like expired, unused, or unwanted medicines, the patient must first take them out of their containers, and mix them with either kitty litter or old coffee grounds. Then, it should all be put into a sealed bag and placed in regular trash.

Though most people think the treatment of medical wastes like these would be to flush them, the Food and Drug Administration advises against it.

In order to prevent accidents, patients need to properly dispose of their medical wastes. If you have any questions about the proper treatment of medical wastes, feel free to ask in the comments.

4 Things To Know About Mail-Back Sharps Services

When you’re a business or healthcare organization, and you’re charged with dealing with any type of sharps medical waste, it can be a challenge to determine which course of action is best for you. You want a system that’s not only efficient in terms of time, but is also low-cost and yet will still provide you with the services you need.

It’s not only important that you consider how you’ll dispose of sharps from the perspective of your business or facility, but also that you constantly keep regulations in mind.

One of the number one ways many organizations deal with sharps is through a mail-back program, but what should you know? How do you know if this approach is right for your needs and the regulatory environment surrounding your organization?

Below are some things to know when you’re considering a mail-back service for handling your sharps.

Where Are You Located?
One of the key considerations to keep in mind if you’re trying to decide between a mail-back program and some other method of sharps disposal is your location. Are you located somewhere that’s rural?

If so, medical waste management and disposal companies might not serve your area, or it might be incredibly expensive.

In this case, a mail-back program can be ideal because you’re going to be saving money while remaining compliant.

An advantage of using a mail-back program can come into play if your organization or medical facility has a limited number of staff, or you simply don’t have the resources available to dedicated to training staff on more complex means of disposing of sharps.

With a mail-back program, you receive everything you need in one kit that’s designed to be safe and compliant, and all employees need to do is put the designated container into the package, fill out a basic form and it’s ready to be put in the mail.

For the most part, you don’t have to train your staff on the use of these programs because one like Sharps Assure is designed to compliant at all levels, which includes Federal and State, as well as with the United States Post Office.


Non-Medical Facilities
Just because you’re not a healthcare-based business doesn’t mean you may not require a sharps program.

Many larger companies and corporations are implementing sharps disposal programs, designed to help employees with diabetes and other health concerns that could require the use of needles.

In this instance, a mail-back program would be an ideal option because there would likely be no other medical waste produced by these businesses so that a larger disposal program wouldn’t be needed.

Home Use
If you’re neither a business or healthcare organization, and you use sharps in your home, you can also use a mail-back program. You’re obviously not going to arrange for full-scale medical waste pickup, but having these programs in place at your home will make sure your family remains safe, as well as the environment.

This is a simple, nearly effortless way to deal with sharps.

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