Why You Need to Train Employees on Proper Disposal of Medical Waste

medical waste training

Every medical office is under pressure to increase productivity and control costs. However, you can never be too busy to make sure your staff is trained on the proper handling and disposal of medical waste.

Regulated medical waste (RMW) handling and disposal mistakes can lead to workplace injuries, increase disposal costs with improper segregation, and potentially lead to fines for improper handling, disposal, and worker injury. At Sharps Compliance, we offer online tools to help train employees and keep the workplace safe and OSHA compliant. OSHA is the agency tasked with governing proper handling of RMW by healthcare workers.

Workplace Injuries Cost More Than You Realize

The healthcare and social assistance sector has one of the highest rates of workplace-related injuries – 582,800 were reported in 2017. Injuries are expensive and carry several hidden costs, such as medical, salary, or legal expenses. Calculating the total cost of a work-related injury is more complex than a single worker’s compensation claim. For example, suppose a team member receives a needlestick injury from a used sharp discarded in the regular trash.

The injured staffer must immediately stop and clean the wound. The supervisor must investigate how the sharp got in the trash and attempt to identify the patient it came from. Depending on the patient’s medical history, the staffer may need to begin prophylaxis treatment, which could include immunizations, anti-viral drugs, and multiple medical visits. You may even have to pay overtime to other employees in order to cover for the injured staffer while receiving treatment. The costs add up quickly. Injuries may also affect employee productivity and morale. In some cases, your employee may even have legal standing to file a civil lawsuit.

In addition to the direct employee effects, a pattern of workplace accidents or violations could attract the attention of regulators. Remember that OSHA only cites/fines employers for violations – even if the accident/injury happened because an employee wasn’t following proper procedures.

Proper training, along with a commitment to safety and compliance, is essential.

Waste Segregation: A Safety & Financial Issue

It can cost ten times as much to dispose of regulated medical waste (RMW) than to dispose of regular trash. Fortunately, only a small percentage of healthcare-related waste falls into the RMW category. According to the World Health Organization, up to 85% of waste generated by health care-related activities is general, non-[bio]hazardous waste” and doesn’t pose a health, safety, or environmental threat.

Your staff must understand the difference between general waste, RMW, and non-biohazardous medical waste. When RMW is mixed in with regular trash, it poses a health and safety threat. RMW can potentially spread contagions like Ebola, Hepatitis, and HIV. Likewise, loose sharps placed into the trash or RMW container can injure healthcare workers, custodial staff, landfill workers, and recycling facility workers.

The vast majority of healthcare workers understand the dangers, and, even go as far as adopting a “better-safe-than-sorry” attitude and place general, non-hazardous trash into red bags along with the materials required to be disposed of as RMW

That means your facility is paying RMW prices to dispose of regular garbage – greatly exaggerating the expenses for RMW disposal. It is not a good situation at all.

Learn more about proper medical waste classification in our three-part series, “What’s Going into That Red Bag?

ComplianceTrac: Get Help with Training & Compliance

Sharps Compliance customers have access to ComplianceTrac, an online training management system, including OSHA-required, DOT, HIPAA, and Medicare training. The online training videos are available 24/7, so employees can train at their convenience. The modules typically allow employees to train in less than an hour, where they receive a certificate of completion at the end of the training.

Examples of training modules include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Fire Safety
  • GHS hazard communications (HazCom)
  • HIPAA
  • Ergonomics
  • Medicare Fraud, Waste, and Abuses

For those healthcare facilities that have direct pickup of their RMW, they are required to have DOT training, which is provided in ComplianceTrac. ComplianceTrac also serves as a document repository, providing customizable OSHA-required safety plans, which you can disseminate among staff. The searchable SDS (MSDS) database allows you to create site-specific electronic SDS manuals along with the required corresponding Chemical Inventory with SDS sheets dating back to 1990. Lastly, there is the audit tool, where your facility can perform regular workplace audits, view reports, assign corrective actions to individuals or departments, and set due dates for completion.

Sharps Compliance has a comprehensive array of online resources, in addition to our disposal products, to help ensure your staff are trained and equipped with everything they need to properly manage your facility’s regulated medical waste needs.

Wanda Lingner

Author: Wanda Lingner

Wanda Lingner holds a BA in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a BBA in Management from Texas A&M University. She has over 20 years of clinical practice in both hospitals and private practice in a variety of medical specialties. As Clinical Specialist, she assists Sharps’ customers in evaluating current federal and state-specific medical and pharmaceutical waste regulations, developing medical waste management plans, and implementing compliant regulated medical and pharmaceutical waste management processes.