All Points Medical Waste Blog

Medical Waste Disposal: Avoiding errors

Most common violations in healthcare facilities

If you’re the one tasked with managing the disposal of medical waste in a healthcare facility, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your organization follows the regulations mandated by your state. Because there are many different rules and OSHA guidelines, remaining compliant can be a confusing task, and many facilities make errors when disposing of their waste, causing them to incur fines and risk the livelihood of their business. Here’s a quick guide on the most common violations:

Untrained employees handling waste

Because of the risk and potential dangers of exposure to biomedical and hazardous waste, it’s crucial that only those employees who are properly trained handle disposal. Team members that have had OSHA compliance training understand the importance of putting waste in the right containers and how to avoid leakage, cross-contamination, commingling and incorrectly segregating waste. Staff who has not been trained should never be allowed to manage or dispose of any medical waste materials.

Not sealing or improperly sealing containers

Many facilities find themselves in a difficult situation because medical waste containers were not sealed properly. Because a large percentage of biomedical waste is liquid, including IV solutions, blood, bodily fluids, medicines and more, leakage is of particular concern. Waste that leaks, spills or sprays out is a danger that can cause harm to you, your staff and the environment, so make sure your containers are sealed during storage, disposal and transport.

Opening closed medical waste containers

Another common error, opening already sealed waste containers, can cause cross-contamination, and exposure to bloodborne pathogens. As a rule, once a container has been sealed, it should not be opened.

Commingling medical waste with other types of waste

Although it may not seem dangerous, putting regular trash in the same container as medical waste can pose a health risk to yourself and your team. It can become especially dangerous if an item or document needs to retrieved from the trash, but a needle or some other waste item has been accidentally discarded in a garbage bag. A simple stick from a sharp can spread germs, viruses and infectious diseases to an unknowing victim.

Not using personal protective equipment

Wearing the right protective equipment, including gloves, face masks, breathing apparatuses, goggles, full-length gowns or suits is mandatory for anyone who collects, handles or hauls medical waste.  Taking shortcuts is common, but highly irresponsible and can lead to injury or illness. Ensure that your staff always follows proper protocol by wearing the right gear.

Putting sharps in the wrong container

Because of their ability to prick fingers or poke through bags and other inappropriate containers, it’s dangerous to discard of sharps in the wrong container. Although it’s a common mistake, it’s one that should be taken seriously and avoided at all costs. Sharps should always go in their own non-porous, puncture proof plastic containers and should never be bent or broken before disposal.

Transporting waste in a non-compliant vehicle

Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for facilities to try and transport their waste in a standard vehicle. But doing so is not only against OSHA standards, it can be dangerous because of the potential for spillage, leakage or danger to the environment. Your medical waste provider uses an OSHA and Department of Transportation regulated vehicle that has sealed, enclosed and impermeable compartments to prevent leakage and minimize risk.

Mistakes happen. But when it comes to the disposal of hazardous waste, preventing errors is key to protect everyone and the planet. Take the time to review these common slip-ups to ensure your facility remains compliant. For all your medical waste disposal needs, call us at 772.600.4885, we offer affordable, full-service waste disposal to facilities in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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