It goes without saying that almost every medical office is often not only busy, but there are many moments when things can develop into absolute chaos. It’s during these times that human error is at its highest and when this occurs there is a potential for medical waste management accidents. Knowing what to do, with a well-defined plan in these circumstances is paramount.
The priority as well as actions that need to be taken in a medical waste management accident is dependent upon the type of accident itself. One individual in the organization that has a high level of understanding of the accident criteria should be designated for making the decisions for actions that need to be taken.
Spillage is the most prevalent accident and should be followed with response procedures that involve trained healthcare staff that respect the waste management plan and:
- Contaminated areas are cleaned and, if necessary, disinfected
- Exposure of workers is limited as much as possible during the clearing up operation
- The impact on patients, medical and other personnel, and the environment is as limited as possible.
For spillage that involves infectious contaminants the contaminated area should be evacuated. Decontamination processes should be immediately taken for personnel that may have had eyes and skin exposed. The designated person in charge of actions should be immediately informed so that he/she can determine the nature of the spill. All individuals that are not involved in the cleanup process should be evacuated. First aid as well as medical care should be given to injured individuals. The contaminated areas should be secured to prevent expansion of exposure to others. Those that are involved in the cleanup should be completely trained and should be given adequate protective clothing. The goal is also to limit the spread of the spill and to disinfect and neutralize the contaminated or spilled materials. While the priority is to collect all contaminated/spilled materials, it should be noted that sharps should not be picked up by hand and instead use pans, brushes or other suitable tools for removal. Spilled materials and contaminated items should be disposed of in the appropriately designated containers/bags. Disinfecting or decontaminating the area should be done with absorbent clothes and should never be ‘turned’ during the cleaning process to avoid spreading contamination. The process of decontamination should begin with the least contaminated area and work to the most making sure that the cloths are changed at each stage. In the case of liquid spills, dry cloths should be used. For solid spillage, cloths that are impregnated with water should be used (basic, acidic or neutral as appropriate). Rinse the area and wipe it completely dry with an absorbent cloth. Disinfectant and decontamination of any/all tools that were used is a necessity. Removal of any/all protective clothing and disinfect/decontaminate.
For anyone exposed to the spillage, seek medical assistance, especially in cases where the contaminant is hazardous.
Each medical facility should have a complete ‘exposure control plan’ available for employees to view as well as procedures & training required for those that may be required to respond.
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