sharps container with needles

Healthcare waste management is complex. Up to 85% of wastes generated in hospitals, clinics, and other situations can be disposed of in regular trash or recycled. However, multiple federal and state agencies regulate the small amounts of wastes that constitute hazardous or regulated medical wastes (RMW). Costs for managing these wastes are significantly higher than for regular trash.

If your employees are placing non-RMW into red bag containers, they are literally throwing money away. However, you could also be liable for regulatory fines and penalties if employees place regulated wastes in regular trash or recycling containers.

Here are five tips to help you control medical waste disposal costs at your facility.

  1. Train Employees on Waste Segregation

Workplace injuries cost money. Employees can be injured by loose sharps or other improperly disposed of items. These injuries carry a variety of costs, such as time off work, medical care, lawsuits, fines, and penalties. Improper disposal of medical wastes may also spread dangerous pathogens – particularly bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Proper training gives your staff the knowledge and confidence to comply with all applicable regulations.

At Sharps Compliance, we provide posters, flyers, and other educational materials to help your employees understand and comply with regulations. Our customers also have access to online documentation and online 24/7 training to ensure their employees stay safe on the job.

  1. Locate and Label All Waste Containers

Proper labeling and placement of waste containers provide essential visual cues for busy staff and reinforce training. Your goal should be to make waste segregation as easy as possible. For example:

  • Color-code and label all waste containers. Only “red bag” waste containers should be red or orange, while recycling containers should be green. Whatever colors and labels you use, be consistent.
  • Maintain consistent placement of all containers. No staff member should have to ask, “Where is the sharps container in this exam room?” because all your sharps containers should be in the same place in all exam rooms.
  • Keep disposal containers near the point of generation. Make disposal convenient so a caregiver can safely dispose of used sharps and contaminated materials at the point of use. That increases efficiency and compliance while reducing the risk of dangerous needlestick injuries.

Sharps Compliance offers medical waste collection containers in various sizes and configurations, so our customers can choose the disposal solutions that work for them.

  1. Use a Full-Service Medical Waste Disposal Company

A full-service provider gives you a single solution with standardized containers, a single point of contact, and the ability to establish relationships. In addition, a full-service company can quickly “scale up” – or down – as your waste disposal needs change.

For example, the quantities of medical waste generated in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care centers increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some facilities needed to move from mailback solutions to on-site pickup and required more supplies. As one Sharps Compliance pickup driver noted in a recent interview:

“Pandemic precautions greatly increased the size of some pickups. Instead of one box, we might get 20 boxes because of the COVID spike in testing. Many of our customers needed a lot more supplies.”

As a full-service medical waste management company, Sharps Compliance supported our customers’ increased requirements during that difficult period.

  1. Develop a Medical Waste Management Plan and Conduct Waste Audits

A variety of state, local, and federal laws and regulations govern medical and hazardous waste disposal. All states must follow federal regulations, but states and localities may set stricter regulations – and many do.

Some states and counties require generators to register, create, and maintain facility-specific medical waste management plans. Where required, plans must be updated when changes are made. Such changes might include a new waste disposal company, changes in the types of waste generated, or changes in the disposal containers’ location.

Every generator should create a medical waste management plan, revisit it regularly, and use it to conduct waste audits. A formal plan describes the types and amount of medical waste generated and defines the procedures necessary for the proper handling, treatment, and disposal. Use the waste management plan to develop employee training materials and conduct frequent waste audits.

Our 3-part series “What’s Going Into That Red Bag” helps generators understand the different waste classifications, provides suggestions to ensure proper waste classification and guidelines for employee training, and encourages waste audits and program evaluation.

A waste management plan and regular audits help you avoid workplace injuries and potential regulatory fines and penalties.

  1. Choose Your Medical Waste Management Company Carefully

Medical and hazardous waste generators have “cradle-to-grave” responsibility for the handling, transportation, and destruction of wastes. That makes the choice of a waste management company critically important. If the company makes mistakes, you are ultimately responsible!

Regulated medical, hazardous, and pharmaceutical wastes are generated by a wide variety of healthcare providers, including hospitals, veterinary clinics, physician and dental offices, urgent care clinics, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare. However, other industries also generate medical waste – funeral homes, medspas, and tattoo studios, for example.

At Sharps Compliance, we work with our customers to develop custom solutions that match their individual needs and budgets. Contact us online or call 800.772.5657 to learn more about how we can help you save money and stay compliant.

Kathryn earned her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from Texas A&M University and her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas. She is certified in high-complexity testing by the ASCP and has been published in the journal Cancer Cytopathology. Her experience ranges from the clinical laboratory to compliance expertise in biohazardous waste management.

published in Medical Waste