Here at TriHaz Solutions we’ve been closely monitoring the effect COVID-19 is having on our customers and the waste industry in general. We’re following guidance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and continually updating our recommendations as more is learned about the virus. Alabama’s public health website is also a great source for state-specific information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled, as is OSHA’s page devoted to the virus.
The New Normal for Medical Facilities
The health and safety of our customers, their employees, and the people they serve is our #1 priority during this challenging time.
As we’re all aware, in order to protect public health and the environment, medical facilities and businesses that generate regulated medical waste in Alabama must follow the state’s applicable hazardous waste disposal regulations. The most current information we have indicates that facilities should manage possible COVID-19 contaminated waste in the same way they do other regulated medical waste (RMW). All employees should continue to wear standard PPE as part of their normal duties and follow standard practices, including proper waste segregation.
Because so much is still unknown about the virus and how it behaves, we believe the best approach right now is to be extra vigilant with waste that may be COVID-19 contaminated. Many facilities have decided to put special rules in place and waste professionals like TriHaz are adopting special protocols like:
- Extra sanitizing measures that include more frequent cleaning of our facility and equipment.
- Increased staff training to ensure our teams have the resources and information they need to stay healthy.
- Providing hand sanitizer at all entry and exit points (as well as in our trucks, as usual.)
- Requiring regular glove changes every time someone enters a facility.
Recommendations from the Healthcare Waste Institute
The Healthcare Waste Institute (HWI) is the trade association that represents private-sector U.S. waste companies as well as the service providers who do business with them. It, too, has a page dedicated to COVID-19 and is providing important updated information as it’s learned.
The association’s guidance includes information and tips that you may have heard or read elsewhere:
- COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that’s believed to spread through close contact with an infected person or surface. Virus bearing drops are spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches and contaminates a surface.
- Infected waste may also be a risk exposure.
- To avoid contamination, your staff should avoid touching their face whenever possible as the nose, mouth, and eyes are entry points into the body for the virus.
- Frequent 20-second long hand washings with soap (regular, not anti-bacterial) are the best way to kill the virus.
- If access to soap and water is not available, a hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol can help by preventing virus replication. Hands should still be washed as soon as possible.
Other recommendations include more frequent surface wipe downs using disinfectants, and all coughs and sneezes should be directed into the shoulder or crook of the arm.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, has put out a helpful infographic that shows some of the most common ways someone can spread the virus or become infected. As they are a popular source of information and entertainment during isolation and lockdown, phones and other digital devices in particular should be cleaned frequently. Wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol are recommended as is keeping your phone in a sealed case when it’s not in use.
Where Things Stand
The HWI reports that the CDC currently classifies regulated medical waste as a Category B infectious substance. That means your facility and its staff should manage COVID-19 infected waste as it would other RMW, such as using appropriate PPE like puncture-resistant gloves and face/eye protection.
Though current regulations don’t require placing sharps containers into red bags, some healthcare facilities in an abundance of caution have decided to take that step anyway. As always, only grossly contaminated PPE should be placed in red bags, which should be tied securely to prevent leaks. Finally, the HWI recommends that since COVID-19 is highly contagious, waste bags should be labeled accordingly so waste collection workers can take extra precautions if they need to open the bag.
A Word of Caution
The internet and social media are overflowing with information that doesn’t necessarily come from trusted, credible sources. We recommend checking with local health departments as well as the resources mentioned at the top of this post.
Of course, we at TriHaz are here to answer any questions you may have about waste management safety and compliance as it applies to COVID-19. We will continue to keep you informed as new information becomes available. We also ask that you keep us informed by letting us know if you’ve had a confirmed case of COVID-19 at your facility. This allows us to collaborate with you safely and effectively on waste packaging and collection.
When prevention and containment issues are of paramount importance, the proper disposal of healthcare waste can make all the difference. You can read more on COVID-19 and how proper waste management practices can help minimize risk on our website. In the meantime, you can rest assured that TriHaz is doing all we can to help protect our customers and employees, and in turn, their families, our community, and environment