5 Things to Consider When Disposing of Medical Waste
“Of the total amount of waste generated by health-care activities, about 85% is general, non-hazardous waste. According to the World Health Organisation, the remaining 15% is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, toxic or radioactive.” according to the World Health Organisation.
To understand why it’s essential to dispose of medical waste properly, it’s important to know what constitutes it. Medical waste, otherwise known as clinical waste, is usually hazardous or harmful waste that can’t be disposed of in your normal bin. The waste is generally produced in healthcare premises, such as hospitals, clinics, doctors offices and labs.
It’s important from a business perspective to understand the types of clinical waste you may produce and correctly dispose of them. It can include anything from drugs and pharmaceutical products to a swab or dressing.
When handling contaminated dressings, you must:
- Adopt a colour-coded waste segregation system
- Choose the correct disposal system for your environment
- Follow a standard procedure
- Wear appropriate PPE
- Clear accidental spillages
- Check storage bags are sealed
- Choose a trusted waste management company
The Department of Health issues a Safe Management of Waste document, which states that medical waste producers should adopt the colour-coded waste segregation system that helps identify and segregate waste. The system is accepted and used across the whole of the United Kingdom. Implementing it into your waste disposal system will mean you stay compliant with Department of Health regulations and avoid confusion for your staff and waste disposal professionals. Mixing waste is prohibited in England and Wales under the Duty of Care and the Hazardous Waste Regulation. The correct classification systems must properly sort it as a legal requirement.
Do you have the correct disposal system for your environment?
Understanding the medical waste most commonly produced in your environment will make it easier to be compliant with waste disposal regulations. The colour-coded clinical waste management system is designed with ease of recognition in mind. A different colour represents each category of waste.
Yellow Lidded Bins
Partially discharged sharps, including those contaminated with medicines ( not cytotoxic and cytostatic) and wastes that require incineration.
Blue Lidded Bins
Medicinal and pharmaceutical (not cytotoxic and cytostatic) waste in original or similar packaging for incineration
Orange Lidded Bins
Items contaminated with bodily fluids suitable for alternative treatment, e.g. sharps, wipes, dressings and gloves etc.
Purple Lidded Bins
Waste contaminated with cytostatic and cytotoxic medicinal products for incineration.
Yellow & Black Bags
Offensive/hygiene waste, such as; nappies, wipes, gloves and any garments with non-infectious body fluids, may be recycled, incinerated or landfilled.
Amalgam wastes & Dental Study Moulds containing Gypsum are either recovered or recycled.
Black Bags (domestic)
Waste such as; food and drink packaging, newspaper, fruit and tissues.
Each container has been designed with its contents in mind in terms of correct disposal. For example, a swabs & dressings disposal should be pedal operated, removing the need for hand contact and reducing the risk of cross-infection.
In terms of disposal, it’s crucial to follow a standard procedure so that no steps are missed. The last thing we need is a hazard or regulation violation on our hands! The first and potentially most important is that the people responsible for waste disposal know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. As a standard, people that handle medical or clinical waste should:
- Wear appropriate PPE, like gloves, aprons, face masks or overalls
- Clear accidental spillages promptly
- Check all storage bags are correctly sealed
When disposing of medical waste, accident prevention is key. Nobody wants to be covered in another man’s bodily fluids! Medical and biological activities often generate medical waste. This means it needs to be made safe through a sterilization process.
Sanitary Waste Requirements
If you have female employees or female visitors to your premises, it is a legal requirement to provide sanitary bins in the UK. It is a requirement that appropriate facilities are put in place to collect and dispose of sanitary waster as explained in The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations Act 1992, The Water Industries Act 1991 and The Environmental Protection Act 1990.
All sanitary waste management must be undertaken by a licensed professional. Outsourcing it to an external professional body can reduce stress and help you remain compliant. By using a professional company like ourselves, you can be sure that the waste is managed correctly and in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. All sanitary waste we collect is incineration for energy rather than sent to landfills.
Best Practices for Medical Waste Handling
Most medical waste problems can be avoided by adhering to the key best practices. All occupants of the building, including employees, should be made aware of the laws and procedures you have put in place. Whether you choose to use a waste disposal company or implement your methods, include everyone in the final decision to make it easier to follow. Waste should be classified and separated by type into the correct, colour-coded waste containers and labelled in terms of its category. The best way to ensure you remain compliant with healthcare regulations is to employ a professional.
Correctly managing medical waste disposal is vital for your company compliance and your employee’s safety. At Woosh, we love talking about all things bodily fluid and would love to help implement a correct and safe disposal system for your premises. For more information or to simply chat about Planet Woosh, get in touch with our friendly team, and we will be happy to keep you sanitised.