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The healthcare industry generates medical waste, including toxic, infectious, and radioactive substances. Sharps, pharmaceuticals, and certain chemicals are also considered medical waste.
Improper medical waste handling and disposal poses a serious threat to employees, the public, and the environment. This online certification course is designed to help you achieve a greater understanding of biohazards that exist in healthcare workplaces, including medical waste.
Safety training helps healthcare workers better understand how to safely handle and dispose of biomedical waste. Our online training highlights the best practices and controls needed to minimize risks associated with handling medical waste.
Numerous federal agencies have regulations pertaining to medical waste handling. However, medical waste is primarily regulated by state environmental and health departments. It is important to check the legislation in place on a state level to understand the regulations that apply to specific geographic areas.
Federal agencies with regulatory oversight include OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the EPA, and others. The EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the public law that creates the framework for the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. While the EPA does not have specific authority for medical waste, they have regulatory oversight for hospital, medical, and infectious waste incinerators (HMIWI) under Section 129 of the Clean Air Act.
Through its Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), the U.S. DOT assigns responsibility to the healthcare employer for properly packaging hazardous materials that are being transported off-site, as well as training each employee involved with packaging medical waste and other biohazards. OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to anyone who may come in contact with blood or other potentially infectious biomedical materials in the course of their employment.
Who must take this training? Healthcare facilities such as a hospital, physician's office, dental practice, veterinary clinic, laboratory, medical research facility, autopsy center, blood bank, or nursing home from the elderly will generate medical waste. Anyone who works in the healthcare industry who may be exposed to medical waste should receive safety training based on their job function and location. Our comprehensive online training includes the types of hazards and risks associated with managing medical waste, the proper way to treat and dispose of medical waste, and what to do if an incident occurs with medical waste.
Case Study: In 1993 a study investigated medical waste practices used by 225 hospitals in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Hospitals were provided a definition of medical waste in the survey, but were asked how they define infectious waste. The question revealed confusion about what qualified as infectious waste versus medical waste, which may explain why almost half of the hospitals surveyed were not segregating general medical waste from infectious waste. The most frequently used practice of treating and disposing of medical waste was the use of private haulers to transport medical waste to treatment facilities. The next most frequently reported techniques were pouring into municipal sewage, depositing in landfills, and autoclaving. Other methods adopted by hospitals included Electro-Thermal-Deactivation (ETD), hydropulping, microwaving, and grinding before pouring into the municipal sewer. Hospitals in Oregon and Washington used microwaving and ETD methods to treat medical waste, while those in Idaho did not. Most hospitals in Oregon and Washington no longer operated their incinerators due to stricter regulations regarding air pollution emissions. Hospitals in Idaho, however, were still operating incinerators because there were no specific state regulations for these types of facilities. The study showed there was no consensus about which agency or organization's definition of infectious waste should be used in a waste management program.
Key Takeaway: To reduce the risks associated with managing medical waste it is critical for healthcare facilities to establish a clear definition for infectious waste and a clear waste management program.
According to RCRA, a healthcare facility that generates a small quantity of medical waste must ensure that all employees are familiar with the proper waste handling and emergency procedures relevant to their responsibilities. A facility that generates a large quantity of medical hazardous waste must have a formal personnel training program in place. This program must require initial training and an annual review.
OSHA's bloodborne pathogen standard requires all employees who come in contact with medical waste to undergo annual training on proper handling, labeling, storing, and transporting of such waste.
Each state has unique regulations and training requirements regarding medical waste. It is important to check for local and state regulations to determine the frequency of retraining or recertification.