Utilizing proper red bag waste disposal in your medical facility is important for many reasons. One, regulated medical waste is regulated for a reason. Disposing of that waste needs to comply with federal medical waste regulations to ensure the basic safety of anyone or anything that comes in contact with that waste. However, there's also a more monetary-based incentive to proper biohazardous waste disposal. Bottom line: learning how to deal with red bag medical waste—and ensuring it's done right in your facility—makes everyone safer and can save you money.
Proper Disposal of Red Bag Waste
How Does This Process Save You Money?
As the generator of medical waste, you can't affect every element of waste management pricing. For example, if you have to pay to ship each box of biohazardous waste, you can't necessarily change the per-box rate (barring changing medical waste management companies). However, you can ensure you're not shipping more boxes than is necessary. This is where educating your staff about what truly constitutes red bag waste comes into play.
For example, if your staff is throwing away general trash in red bags, that can lead you to shipping far more boxes of medical waste than you need to—and subsequently paying more than necessary.
The Education Factor
The importance of educating your staff about regulated medical waste disposal cannot be overstated. If your staff members are not up to date on these regulations, you can't expect them to properly comply with the laws. By the same token, if they aren't fully aware of proper biohazard waste protocol, how can they be expected to follow it?
This is a large part of why OSHA compliance training is required and why OSHA BBP training (that is, a mandatory yearly bloodborne pathogen training) is so important—and legally required—for anyone in your facility who sees patients.
You must ensure your entire staff is partaking in these OSHA trainings and staying current on these issues. Again, doing so benefits everybody. Your staff, patients, and people in contact with the waste are safer when it's properly disposed of, and you also see monetary benefits in avoided OSHA fines.
What Is Biohazardous Waste?
Perhaps the most important information your staff needs to handle biohazardous materials correctly is to learn what those materials are.
Biohazardous waste goes by several names, including:
- Biohazardous material
- Red bag waste
- Regulated medical waste
- Biohazard waste
All are just different ways of saying the same thing. These are materials that have been infected with blood or other potentially infectious materials, and they cannot go directly into the trash. They need to be properly placed in red bags, sealed, and shipped to a medical waste autoclave.
What Isn't Biohazardous Waste?
The following are some items that commonly go in red bag waste but don't need to:
- Gloves, masks, or gowns that have not been in contact with blood or other potentially infectious material.
- Opened but unused bandages or gauze.
- Standard trash (coffee cups, food scraps, packaging, etc.).
These items end up in red bags largely due to two reasons. One, doctors are not diligent about using the proper waste receptacles, or two, they don't know the proper protocol. In this first case, it's a matter of enforcing procedure. In the second, it's about educating staff.
Keeping Down Medical Waste Disposal Cost…but Avoiding the Slippery Slope
By keeping standard trash out of your red bags, you can simply and legally cut down on your number of shipped red bag waste boxes.
Again, education and compliance with regulations are the most important factors. Medical facilities can save money by knowing what does (and doesn't) need to go in red bags, but those facilities cannot take the practice too far. That is, they cannot start cutting corners and throwing blood-contaminated materials into the garbage just to cut down on waste disposal cost.
If blood-contaminated waste is not treated at medical waste autoclaves, this puts people and the environment at serious risk of bloodborne pathogens, and it puts your facility at risk of fines for noncompliance.
The goal, therefore, is not to take risks to save a few dollars. Rather, arming your staff with as much information as possible will help you avoid having to unnecessarily pay regulated medical waste disposal prices for items that could have safely and legally gone in the standard trash.
For more waste management tips or ways to keep down medical waste disposal costs, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a trusted medical waste management Atlanta, Georgia company since 1989