A key concern across many medical facilities is the correct management and disposal of medical waste. Depending on the size of the medical, healthcare, or scientific facility, various steps or stages may be required. The larger the facility, the more likely it is to possess its own in-built waste disposal system. Smaller facilities, however, are required to arrange transport for this waste – considering cost as well as efficiency when employing this service – prior to the actual disposal of it.
There are many elements to take into account for these stages, including the suitability of the companies involved, the pre-sorting of waste into the key categories, and the disposal of items that cannot be transported, such as items under the heading of ‘sharps’ – scalpels and razors, for example.
The Importance of Clinical Waste Solutions
As you would expect, much of the waste produced in healthcare facilities falls under the remit of general waste (approximately 85% of medical waste, according to WHO). However, for the items that fall under other categories – such as hazardous or infectious – specialized measures are required in order to prevent infection, disease, and environmental damage caused by toxins, particulate matter and microbes.
Environmentally speaking, there are clinical waste solutions and companies that focus on sustainability and ethical treatment of medical waste. The onus here is upon working closely alongside healthcare practitioners to identify the various needs of facilities – which is aided by staff members at these companies having considerable experience within the world of healthcare, whether that be at a veterinary practice, a doctors’ office, a hospital, or a medical research center.
In the US, it is essential for disposal purposes that waste is separated according to whether it is considered general waste, hazardous waste, infectious waste, or radioactive waste, and to follow a general guide for advisory purposes.
Sharps, including needles, are particularly difficult to categorize, as they are dangerous to other healthcare workers, waste disposal managers, and the public in equal measure in terms of cuts and wounds. This is heightened if the items have been in contact with bodily fluids – this can usually be determined based on where in the facility it has been used, as general office items are unlikely to have come into contact with bodily fluids.
Tips to Remember
Within ordinary trash cans, there can be no needles disposed of, whether used or unused, meaning that they require their own disposal area. They also cannot come into contact with any fluids, must be kept out of the reach of minors, and should not allow for staff to place their hands inside. To prevent overspilling of sharps, the disposal container should not be filled more than three-quarters.
Much more stringent measures are required for toxic or radioactive waste, resulting from radiotherapy or other chemical-based medical care. Correct labeling is essential, in addition to the isolation and effective covering of this waste, to limit the amount of exposure to the public, as well as healthcare workers and waste managers.
Identifying the most appropriate ways to dispose of medical waste lies at state-level regulations, alongside the individual policies of healthcare facilities. Establishing state and individual facility regulations is important, but it is also important to ensure that this knowledge is widely disseminated among all staff on a regular basis, to ensure consistency and prevent potential harmful errors.