The regulations surrounding medical waste disposal can get extremely complicated. There are so many agencies and interested parties involved with these regulations, that keeping up with them and complying with them might sometimes seem like a full-time job in and of itself. As complicated as it may seem, there’s a reason why the practice of medical hazardous waste disposal is so regulated: public safety is a risk. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to comply with all laws to make sure everyone stays safe. Here are some facts about medical waste disposal that medical waste companies want you to know.
In 1988, the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) was created. Used syringes were showing up on beaches and the government decided it needed a better way to deal with medical waste disposal. In its first form, it was only in place for 2 years, but set the baseline for medical hazardous waste disposal regulation that was to come. Its main legacies will be defining precisely what qualifies as medical waste, and created standards for packing, labeling, and handling waste, along with how to keep proper records.
Many things are classified as medical waste, not just sharps. If it contains blood or other bodily fluids, then it qualifies for proper medical waste disposal. If it has any sort of infectious material, it qualifies as well. In fact, even something saturated with blood, bodily fluids, or infectious content is medical waste.
When the MWTA expired after 2 years, individual states began to create their own laws applicable in their states. While these medical hazardous waste disposal laws pretty much all look quite similar to the MWTA, each state could refine them to be more applicable and appropriate to their own needs. These regulations are very close to the ones that medical waste companies still follow today.
While the medical hazardous waste disposal industry is mostly governed by individual states, the federal government has set forth some rules as well. For instance, the OSHA set down some guidelines for employee safety, and the DOT made sure that transportation safety was included when handling waste. As well, the DEA got involved since medical waste disposal also involved controlled substances. Lastly, the EPA also has regulations that minimize the risk to the environment.
Medical waste companies use two methods for the disposal and destruction of waste. Steam sterilization is the most commonly used, however there are some materials, such as chemo, drugs, and pathology waste that must be sterilized. After sterilization, the materials from the containers and sharps are then safe to be recycled.
The Department of Transportation mandates that medical waste companies must have all of their employees properly trained on DOT procedures. Not only that, but they must be re-trained every two years. This training must be fully documented and be ready for presentation should the documentation be requested. Without this, the company will not be compliant. The re-training measures are there to ensure that all workers are kept up-to-date with any new safety standards.
Handling medical waste, and following all of the guidelines, regulations, and laws can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming. Most healthcare facilities choose to hire a company to handle their disposal needs. A medical waste company is up to date on all standards, and will ensure that medical waste is disposed of completely and safely.