Complying with the many rules and regulations surrounding the handling of medical waste is about as easy as roller skating backwards up a ladder. The storing and transporting of this waste is regulated by so many agencies, and those regulations change often, that compliance can become challenging, to say the least.
Here are some medical waste compliance facts that you may or may not know:
It’s not only sharps that are considered medical waste. Anything that contains liquid blood or certain other body fluids (AKA OPIM – other potentially infectious material) or is saturated with blood or OPIM is considered medical waste.
The Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 was enacted in response to used syringes that washed up on East Coast beaches. MWTA was in effect for two years in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. The act accomplished four things. It:
- Defined medical waste and determined which waste should be regulated
- Created a cradle-to-grave tracking system
- Established standards for segregation, packaging, labeling and storage of medical waste
- Instituted record-keeping requirements and penalties for mismanagement
Eventually the MWTA expired and individual states passed their own laws and regulations about the storage and transportation of medical waste. Most regulations, however, look very similar to the old MWTA.
While most regulations are set forth by individual states, there are some federal agencies that also regulate the handling of medical waste along the cradle-to-grave. These include OSHA for employee safety, the DOT for transportation safety, The DEA for the disposal of controlled substances, the EPA for the treatment and disposal facilities and disposal of hazardous drugs, and the CDC, which regulates infection control.
Disposal facilities treat medical waste in two basic ways: using steam sterilization or incineration. Sterilization is used on virtually all medical waste except waste that legally requires incineration. Drugs, pathology waste and trace chemo must be incinerated. Once most items have been sterilized, some disposal companies recycle the plastics and metals instead of placing them into a landfill.
The DOT requires anyone who prepares medical waste for transport be trained in the proper procedures. This training must be documented and repeated every two years to remain compliant.
As you can see, medical waste compliancy can get a bit complicated. We help healthcare facilities handle and dispose of their medical waste so they can focus on helping people instead of spending time keeping up with compliance changes. Get in touch with us today.