Whether you have a medical waste disposal process in place or are now creating one, you might experience challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges at this stage is making sure you meet federal and state regulations, while staying on top of any changes to these rules. To help you get started or ensure your current process is compliant, we have compiled five key questions you should ask when creating or reviewing a medical waste disposal process for your medical facility.
Is your staff properly trained?
You will likely experience difficulties staying in compliance if your team doesn't know what to do with medical waste. Your team needs to know how to handle, categorize, package, document, and transport all of your regulated medical waste. Unfortunately, OSHA, HIPAA, HazCOM, and the State DOT do not have the necessary resources to properly train your staff.
Also, even though they require you to follow their guidelines, they make it difficult with hard-to-understand documents. Therefore, you need to make sure to seek out proper compliance training programs for your staff to remain in compliance with your medical waste disposal.
Does your practice categorize and segment all of your waste?
You can't dispose of your medical waste as a single stream. Some types of waste have special handling and elimination requirements, which means your medical facility needs to separate them from other types of medical waste. These categories are:
- Sharps: Needles, knives, and syringes go into a specialized hard-sided container that' is marked with a biohazard symbol.
- Human Blood and Related Products: Any blood, serum or plasma waste falls into this category.
- Microbiological: This includes infectious specimens, such as cultures and live vaccines, as well as the instruments used to work with them.
- Isolation: Includes any waste held in an area that is isolated due to infectious disease.
- Anatomical: Includes animal carcasses, recognizable human organs, tissues and body parts, and may require special treatment under some state laws.
- Pathological: Typically, samples of tissues that are examined in a laboratory setting. For the most part, pathological waste refers to very small tissue sections and body material derived from biopsies or surgical procedures that are then examined in the lab.
- Pharmaceutical: If you handle and administer medications at your facility, you need a suitable way to dispose of the expired and unusable drugs. The method you use must render the drugs useless.
Do you have an employee designated as an inspector?
To remain in OSHA compliance, your medical facility must appoint an employee to the role of inspector. This employee has the important job of inspecting the medical waste containers to determine if all collection, container, and disposal requirements are met. This employee helps you proactively identify medical waste disposal process issues and how to address them.
OSHA fines can cut into your operating budget and make it difficult to give patients the standard of care you require. When you follow these safeguards, you increase your chances of remaining in compliance and therefore avoiding these fine and fees. After all, your time and resources shouldn't be tied up with medical waste disposal.
How is your medical waste transported and treated after it leaves your facility?
There's a lot involved in getting medical waste from point A to point B safely and appropriately. Everything must be sorted and packaged in appropriate compliant containers, and your medical waste disposal service provider must follow the proper procedures when transporting, treating, and disposing of this waste. Make sure these details are in place by working with a highly qualified medical waste disposal service provider.
Always remember to ask the medical waste disposal company thorough questions before you sign a contract with them. They should be able to go into detail about what happens to your medical waste after it leaves your facility, the safeguards they have in place, and how they fulfill all local, state, and federal regulatory requirements. Please remember, you are required to visit your provider’s treatment facility annually.
What documentation does your medical waste disposal company provide you?
One part of your due diligence when selecting a medical waste management company is ensuring they have the right federal and state documentation. At a bare minimum, you should receive a manifest document and a certificate of destruction. Any permits required for the transport and delivery of your medical waste should also be kept on file. You never lose liability for the medical waste generated by your practice, but having the right documentation provides proper assurance that the service provider knows what they're doing.
A medical waste disposal process is complex and often guided by many regulations and guidelines. You must fully understand the end-to-end process of handling medical waste to remain compliant, and your medical facility and all staff members need the right resources to accomplish this task. Hopefully, these five questions will help create or perfect your facility’s medical waste process.