The medical waste management industry is often diverse and complicated. With so many different types of potential medical waste and with different rules and regulations stipulating how each of those types of waste needs to be handled, it can quickly become confusing. Adding to the stress is the fact that improper handling carries real consequences. It can mean contamination of groundwater or public endangerment if there's an accident or spill involving hazardous materials. It can also mean fines or other consequences for the generator of that waste. With that in mind, the following are some best practices for safe, legal disposal and transport of medical waste.
Doctor Offices and Hospitals: Important to know these 4 Best Practices for Medical Waste Disposal and Transportation.
Proper Medical Waste Containers Are Crucial
Often people in the medical field get so involved in the accurate identification of their generated waste that they lose sight of other details in the shipping process. One item that can be overlooked in this way is containerizing.
To properly transport medical waste, all medical-related waste must be placed in approved containers first. Depending on the type of waste, this could mean certified cardboard boxes or tubs. Again, sometimes people think so long as the waste is put into any container, it suffices, but that's certainly not the case.
Containers used for medical waste should be:
- Taped before shipment. Bags within the container should also be taped.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) approved.
- Boxed according to DOT restrictions on weight.
- Sealed properly.
- Stored in a dry, secure area after being filled and while awaiting pickup.
Proper Packaging Depends on Medical Waste Type
Accurate identification of your medical-related waste is crucial because it determines how you need to package and ship that waste.
Regulated medical waste, for example, should be placed in red bag liners. Those bags should then be placed inside adequately sealed DOT-approved containers.
Any sharps in your red bag waste (contaminated needles, syringes, surgical knives, scalpels, etc.) should be placed in puncture-resistant containers before being put in proper medical waste container boxes. This step is essential, as it protects anyone in contact with that waste from getting cut or poked with those sharps and potentially exposed to any infectious material. Even though drivers are made to wear puncture-resistant gloves, these protective items aren't foolproof, and this protocol should be followed with every sharp every time.
Proper Paperwork Must Be Provided
All regulated waste that's being shipped needs to be accompanied by a properly filled out bill of lading. If this paperwork is inaccurate or missing, the liability rests with the generator of that waste.
If you're looking to transport anything hazardous, which could include some pharmaceutical waste, a bill of lading is not used. Rather, you'll need a hazardous waste manifest.
Proper Waste Management Companies Can Help
You always want to work with a waste management company that is fully certified and permitted to transport that waste. Working with an established, reputable company will also help ensure that the waste ends up shipped to a proper treatment facility. Because the waste is the generator's responsibility at every step, you need to work with companies that understand the legal policies in place and comply by those regulations to the letter when disposing of all medical waste and hazardous waste.
Working with a professional outfit presents many benefits:
- The company is punctual and on time. If they make appointments, they keep them, so you never have to worry about whether the waste is actually going to get picked up or not. Sometimes there are even time frames for how long the waste can legally stay at your site, so timely pickups are crucial.
- You can develop a professional relationship with that company. You get to know the driver, and the driver gets to know your business. Therefore, he or she can perform pickups without having to disrupt your workday more than is absolutely necessary.
- Professional companies will do everything possible to comply with regulations, which helps legally protect your company and helps minimize the chance of anyone getting sick or injured from that waste.
For more information about proper protocol or tips related to medical waste disposal and transportation, please contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services.