Who imposes fines for improper medical waste disposal?
If you are an avid reader of our blog posts, you will notice that we often talk about the EPA and the DOT that provide regulations and fines for improper medical waste disposal or not complying with their policies; however, other governmental agencies will also impose sanctions and penalties to your practice if you fail to keep up to standards.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPAA is the primary organization that oversees waste hazardous waste management, the Environmental Protection Agency, and has passed multiple laws, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, that govern waste management policies and practices. Listed below are all the organizations that will fine you for improper medical waste disposal and management practices and more information about what they enforce.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Unlike HIPAA, OSHA is a governmental agency that passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 to ensure safe working conditions for all people by enforcing standards by providing training, education, and guidance to abide by these new regulations. OSHA is a part of the United States Department of Labor, and its standards apply to most private and public sector employers and employees. Some examples of OSHA regulations regarding waste management include creating Emergency action plans, Hazardous waste operations, emergency response, respiratory protection, proper sanitation, compliance training, and specific permit requirements.
OSHA enforced all states in the U.S to have an OSHA-approved State Plan. State plans are OSHA-approved safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Currently, 22 out of the 50 states have OSHA-approved State Plans.
Potential fines that OSHA can enforce if a company does not comply with its requirements.
- Serious Other-Than Serious Posting Requirements = $14, 502
- Failure to Abide by regulations = $14,502 per day beyond the abatement date
- Willful or Repeated violations = $145, 027 per violation
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
This is the leading agency that enforces medical waste disposal regulations and the consequences if companies don’t comply with them.
There are various laws that the EPA has passed that cover the policies for proper waste disposal as well as the fines that could be enforced are listed below:
- Clean Air Act
This act is a federal law regulating all sources of air emissions, mainly to reduce and control air pollution. Concerning waste management, this law sets regulations for Municipal and Solid Waste landfills, on and off-site waste combustors and incinerators relating to the size and what can go in it, and public treatment facilities. The EPA assigns the fine based on the policy that was violated. For example, a civil administrative penalty which refers to non-compliance with federal agency requirements, can be up to $37,500 per day of violation. For minor infractions, the field citation can be up to $7,500 per day per violation. The largest fine a person would have to pay, mainly for severe or criminal violations, can be up to $295,000 and could result in jail time. For more information regarding the Clean Air Act, click here.
- Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act protects the quality of the U. S’s surface water resources, mainly regulating the leaking of pollutants into the surface water. This law also covers regulations for wastewater, stormwater, and oil storage tanks to prevent companies from discharging pollutants into local water sources. The regulations under this law include compliance training, specific permit requirements, frequent monitoring, and creating and evaluating a long-term control plan. There are various types of fines; for example, if a person knowingly violates the act, he could pay between $2,500 – $20,000 per day of violation. Continuous knowing and negligent violations could result in a fine of up to $100,000 per day. For more information regarding the Clean Water Act, click here.
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
The purpose of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to control hazardous waste from the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. This act is the nation’s primary law that governs the disposal of solid and hazardous waste and was a catalyst for change in the waste disposal industry. Under this act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 was amended to encourage states to manage nonhazardous waste and create guidelines for solid waste landfills and facilities that prohibit open dumping of solid waste. Individually most of the violations, including transportation and storage policies, result in a $50,000 fine, but multiple violations can result in a fine of up to $250,000 – $1,000,000. To learn more about the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, click here.
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
This act gives the EPA permission to require reporting, record-keeping, testing requirements, and restrictions related to mixing chemical substances. The TSCA focuses on the production, transportation, use, and disposal of specific chemicals, including lead-based paint, asbestos, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The minimum fine to receive can be up to $40,576 per day, which usually refers to failing to provide and maintain required documents. The largest fine can be up to $250,000, but if severe enough, it could be up to $1,000,000. For more information about the Toxic Substances Control Act, click here.
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA)
The EPCRA act mandates that facilities report hazardous substances storage, usage, and disposal to federal, state, and local governments. It was initially created in 1984 after an incident in Bhopal, India, where methylisocyanate was released and killed or severely injured more than 2,000 civilians. Civil monetary penalties it can cause up to $62,689 per violation, and serious violations could cost up to $1,337,365. For more information on the EPCRA, click here.
The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT)
The Department of Transportation enforces the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to regulate the transportation of any material capable of posing an unreasonable risk to public health, safety, and property when transported. The DOT sets packaging and transporting requirements for hazardous and regulated medical waste and training for any employees handling the material. The fines increased in 2021, and now for civil penalties regarding shipping violations, the fine can be up to $83,439 per day per violation. For a violation that results in death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property damage, the fine could be up to $194,691 per day per violation. For more information on waste management regulations, click here for the U.S Department of Transportation.