Medical Waste Packaging
Medical Waste Packaging Process
Regulations exist for packaging medical waste, whether it is classified as biohazardous waste or other types of waste. Organizations in the healthcare industry must have a process for how that waste will be handled to stay in compliance with federal regulations as well as those in the state and even local statutes.
The First Step is Defining Regulated Medical Waste
It is critical to be able to define what waste within an organization is to be labeled as regulated medical waste. There is variance among agencies about which materials and chemicals fall into the category.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to label any waste that has regulations around how it is handled or transported as regulated medical waste (RMW). If it could cause infection, it might also meet this definition.
Under this broad definition, some examples of RMW include disposable gowns with blood or used gauze. Organizations would treat materials that are contaminated with infectious or potentially infectious materials as RMW. Sharps would also fit into this category.
The first step would be to define what items fit under RMW for the specific facility or organization.
The Second Step is Determining How to Segregate the Waste
Once it has been determined what types of RMW is being handled by the facility, the next step is to determine how it is segregated from other waste. Not only does the RMW need to be kept separate from non-regulated waste, it must be separate from each other. For example, sharps would be separate from biohazardous waste, pharmaceutical waste and other categories.
Third Step is Knowing Which Agencies Govern Specific RMW Disposal
Several federal and state agencies are involved in regulating and monitoring handling and disposal of RMW. It is up to the facility to know which agencies it answers to. This ensures they are following the correct regulations. For instance, the US Department of Transportation is concerned with transporting waste disposal offsite.
The Environmental Protection Agency focuses on preventing RMW from entering the environment, which often means governing how that waste may be disposed once it leaves the facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration puts its attention on how healthcare employees are protected when handling regulated medical waste.
In many cases, local and state rules are even stricter than federal regulations. Facilities and organizations that develop rules for RMW must consider all these agencies to ensure they maintain compliance locally, statewide and nationally.
Step Four is Creating a Plan for Handling RMW
Once the facility has determined which regulations need to be followed, it must develop a plan for how the waste is to be handled. This step involves multiple considerations, beginning with choosing the right container for the waste. It must be placed in an appropriate location and lined with a biohazard bag. Staff should be trained on what items are to go in which containers. Once the bag is full, it must be secured and placed properly for pickup. A waste transport company will take the waste to the approved site for disposal. Hiring a medical waste disposal company ensures they are up to date on the current regulations regarding regulated medical waste.