Biohazardous Waste Disposal
Most people don’t consider the importance of Biohazardous waste disposal when it comes to staying healthy. That is mainly because there is a lack of education related to what it is, how it affects us, and who takes care of it. In this article, you will learn about biohazardous waste, how to dispose of it properly, and the risks associated. Let's start with the basics, defining what is Biohazardous waste.
Biohazardous waste defined
Biohazardous waste is “waste materials generated at health care facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories” as stated by the EPA.
Biowaste can take on many different forms which can be confusing. (NOTE: DIFFERENT FORMS ARE SHARPS WASTE, BIOHAZARDOUS WASTE, PATHOLOGICAL WASTE, ETC. )
Bio Hazardous waste management is very strict and requires the right containers and markings on these collection bins to ensure you are compliant. This includes the universal biohazard symbol. Each sharps container must either be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol and the word "biohazard" or be color-coded red. If a device was used or has the capability of spreading hazardous fluids after use, then it is dealing with biological waste that must be attended to in the right way.
Biohazardous Waste Disposal - How To
Now that you know what is considered biohazardous waste, next I will cover how you properly dispose of this waste. Medical waste is primarily regulated by state environmental and health departments. Examples of federal agencies include the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and more. There are many great resources you can find when you also visit your state websites. PureWay has created numerous free resources you can access HERE if needed.
Ok, let's cover how this waste is disposed of. There are many means to how biowaste is disposed of including thermal treatment, steam sterilization, electron pyrolysis, and chemical mechanical systems. In other words, the toxic substances composing biological waste are destroyed or reduced by altering the composition at extreme temperatures(incineration) or by combining them with oxygen (oxidation). Any healthcare facility is required to properly dispose of their waste using approved methods and documenting that process is critical.
OSHA biohazardous waste standards protect workers whose job it is to handle biohazardous waste and other hazardous materials. It is important to properly handle biological waste management because the hazards can be extreme. Disposing of hazardous bio-waste in a safe way reduces the risk of illness, workplace injuries, and death. To get to this point, bio-hazardous waste needs a place to go before being destroyed.
Basically, disposal of biohazardous waste is determined by the risk of the object releasing or spreading dangerous liquids. One of the main forms of this waste that healthcare professionals encounter and use daily is sharps (syringes, needles, scalpels, etc.). Guidelines from OSHA state that Sharps must be placed in a container that is closable, puncture-resistant, and prevents leakage during handling. The container must be color-coded or labeled according to standards and reusable containers must not be opened. This means that once the container is closed, there should be no attempt to clean it manually or empty the contents in a way. This helps prevent employee exposure and risk.
We often hear of facilities stating they use small sharps containers as an extra measure, OSHA guidelines state that once containers are closed they should be duct-taped to ensure the lid is secure. The Sharps containers should be located as close as possible to the area they will be used. Proper labeling, including the universal biohazard symbol along with the word “biohazard”, must be included on all containers and bags that contain regulated waste that stores blood or OPIM. This also means on containers that store, dispose of, ship, or transport blood or OPIM. Equipment that may be contaminated and is being shipped or serviced must have the identifiable universal biohazard label and the word “biohazard”.
Improper Biowaste Storage
Handling biohazardous waste is very important to medical safety, health, and the environment. Should improper storage of those materials occur, this could result in spills, leaks, fires, and contamination of soil and drinking water. Regulations are in place to prevent these events from occurring, but it is vital to know how to properly handle the waste before it is removed from your hands. Waste should be stored in a safe and secure place in your facility and properly labeled to communicate to staff that "biohazardous waste" is present.
Common types of biohazardous waste
Specifically, the three main types of biohazardous waste are pathology waste, sharps waste, and regulated medical waste (biohazardous waste). Pathology waste is “unfixed human tissue, organs, body parts, and biopsy materials” according to OSHA. Sharps are any device used to puncture or lacerate the skin. These include standard items used in dental offices such as cap needles, disposable scalpel brackets, wires, and contaminated glass. An object becomes sharps waste after the device is used and must be disposed of properly in a sharps container.
Sharps mail-back systems enable any healthcare facility or self-injector to safely dispose of and recycle sharps waste. Biohazardous waste is a liquid or semi-liquid blood and other potentially infectious materials that can release harmful fluids if compressed or touched. Biowaste in healthcare facilities is waste materials generated at hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, dental practices, blood banks, veterinary hospitals/clinics, and so forth. Medical waste examples include blood-soaked bandages, discarded surgical gloves, discarded surgical instruments, discarded needles used to give shots or draw blood, cultures, stocks, swabs, and removed body organs (e.g., tonsils, appendices, limbs), discarded lancets, etc.
What does PureWay do?
We provide hazardous waste disposal services for businesses and healthcare facilities of all sizes. Healthcare facilities are regulated by multiple state and federal entities which further complicates the scope of services needed to ensure compliance. PureWay's hazardous waste specialist will review your needs and propose options that address all of your state, federal and municipal requirements. Hazardous waste is regulated by multiple government entities but the primary federal agency that defines the requirements is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hazardous waste has been defined by the EPA as being waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having harmful effects on human health or the environment. This waste can come in many forms including liquids, gases, sludges, and solids. PureWay’s hazardous waste disposal services include pickup, transportation, and disposal of waste; mail-back packaging and shipping to the disposal site; documentation (manifesting); DOT training; and reporting.
Sources for this article:
“1910.1030 - Bloodborne Pathogens. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030. Accessed 2 July 2022.
“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” US EPA, www.epa.gov. Accessed 2 July 2022.