When it comes to managing a funeral home, disposing of the potentially infectious waste stream can feel daunting. However, if you understand the 4 main components of safe waste management, you will be on your way to running a safe funeral home that is fully compliant with all regulations.
Listed below are the most common types of medical waste found in funeral homes.
The National Funeral Directors Association issued a document entitled Funeral Home Medical Waste Protocol. This includes a list of wastes not classified as medical waste that must be disposed of by other means. These include, but are not limited to:
Then there are wastes types like trace-contaminated chemotherapy waste, which differ from bulk or unused chemotherapy drug waste. An example of this would be used chemotherapy drug vials that could potentially accompany the deceased to a funeral home. In many states this type of waste can be placed in the biohazard waste bins that are picked up by your medical waste company.
On the other hand, pathological wastes such as bodily fluids or tissue, often must be segregated or labeled separately from your biohazard waste because of the method used for properly disposing of such waste. Rather than an autoclave, this type of waste often needs to be incinerated to ensure all potentially infectious material has been destroyed. If your medical waste hauler determines that pathological waste has been mixed with other biohazard waste then they may be forced to treat all waste as if it were pathological, which could result in an increased cost passed on to the funeral home.
Most important of all, biohazardous waste must be properly packaged in leak-proof containers that are properly labeled. Any sharps waste such as needles or syringes must be first placed in a rigid, puncture-proof container before being placed in the red biohazard bag.
OSHA bloodborne pathogens training that meets hazard communication standards must be provided to all employees who may come in contact with blood or other potentially infectious bodily fluids during their employment. This includes writing an exposure control plan outlining how the funeral home will protect employees from exposure to infectious wastes.
Check with your medical waste provider to see if they have a compliance program available. Many offer online solutions that are economical and still provide everything you need to protect your business.
In addition to OSHA training, personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure is key. PPE can include face and eye protection, body protection, hand protection and more. Look at the nurse who recently contracted the Ebola virus after caring for a patient in Dallas with Ebola. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tom Frieden, said “We don’t know what occurred, but at some point there was a breach in protocol.” He went on to say that treating a patient with Ebola can be done safely but “even a single inadvertent slip can result in contamination.” This will becoming even more vital if more patients die from Ebola and their remains may be handled by coroners and medical examiners.