If you own or manage a funeral home, managing the regulated medical and hazardous waste streams produced by your work can be a complex and confusing process. You are probably quite clear on when your responsibility for that waste begins – the moment it is produced. However, a point that often causes confusion about the funeral home waste disposal process is the question of just where a funeral home’s responsibility ends. You might, quite reasonably, feel that your responsibility has ended when you hand your waste products over to your waste service provider. However, that is not the case. Your responsibility extends well beyond your waste pick-up appointment.
Funeral home waste disposal: Your responsibilities when waste is in your possession
Firstly, you have a responsibility to ensure that all employees who produce or come into contact with regulated waste at any phase of the funeral home waste disposal process are well-trained in the safe management of that waste. You are also responsible to make sure that employees are equipped with the proper personal protective equipment to protect themselves against the potential risks of handling biological and hazardous waste.
These steps are mandated under OSHA regulations, with all employees with potential exposure required to receive Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) training, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training, and some hazardous waste training courses. These and other courses that may be required to be provided to some workers, depending upon their particular position in regards to waste exposure or management, are generally known as compliance training. Many waste service providers offer compliance training among their services, and can help you determine which courses are required for employees of your funeral home.
Then, you have an obligation to ensure that each waste product is appropriately classified and segregated into appropriate, approved waste containers, according to its level of risk and the applicable state and federal regulations. All employees who generate or handle regulated waste should be thoroughly trained in waste classification and segregation regulations to help ensure that this obligation is met.
Next, you have an obligation to store your waste in accordance with state and federal safety guidelines and regulations. A good waste services company can fill you in on the specifics for your business, but your general responsibilities include ensuring that waste is properly packaged and labeled. Labels must indicate the type of waste each container holds, and medical waste must be marked with one of the following terms; Infectious, Medical Waste, or Biohazardous.
Funeral home waste disposal regulations require that waste is stored in a secure area that cannot be accessed by the general public. Waste storage areas must be separated from areas designated for food consumption.
Your responsibilities during and after waste pick-up
You are responsible for medical and hazardous waste even after it leaves your facility. This means that if your waste causes harm to the public or the environment as it is transported for treatment or disposal, you are liable
This “cradle to grave” liability means that you need to take measures to ensure that your waste is handled in compliance with all applicable regulations. Good steps to take include making sure that your service provider has the right licenses and permits for each type of waste you entrust to their care, and asking for copies of those documents to keep on file at your facility.
Make sure that you are given a signed manifest for your waste before it leaves your facility, and that each container is labeled with the name and address of your funeral home. After your waste is picked up, getting a certificate of destruction is your final step in the funeral home waste disposal process. Your waste company should provide you with that certificate once your waste has reached its final destination. After your waste has been destroyed or rendered harmless and delivered to an approved disposal facility, and you have your certificate of destruction in hand, your responsibility for that load of medical/hazardous waste has officially come to an end.