If you work with a medical waste disposal company, it's easy to feel as if your part is done once that company completes your medical waste pickup. However, nothing could be further from the truth! As the generator of that medical waste, you are liable for the entire life of the waste. That is, until it is properly treated and disposed of, you are financially and legally on the hook if something happens with that waste. This is why medical waste disposal companies matter and why choosing one is so vitally important to your medical facility.
Waste Generators Must Know Where Their Medical Waste is Being Disposed
Cradle to Grave Liability
Many people who generate medical waste don't realize the extent of their liability as it relates to that biomedical waste. Again, just because your medical waste management company came for a scheduled medical waste pick up and took that waste away doesn't mean the liability transferred to that waste management company.
Until the waste is properly treated (either through a medical waste autoclave or through the process of medical waste incineration), you're responsible. This is known as cradle to grave liability (from waste generation to waste disposal).
So…What Happens to My Waste?
Since you're liable, it's important to know what actually happens to your medical waste after it's been loaded onto the truck and taken away. What exactly do medical waste management companies do with this waste once it's in their possession?
The answer depends somewhat on the type of waste.
Regulated Medical Waste
Anything that qualifies as red bag waste must go through medical waste autoclaves before passing on to the landfill. This process kills any of the germs found on blood-contaminated items and is as essential (and legally required) step in proper regulated medical waste disposal. (Don't forget other necessary steps such as always putting your used syringes or needles in sharps bins.)
- Pathological Waste
Unlike red bag medical waste, pathological waste must go through medical waste incineration. This process exposes the waste to much higher temperatures and reduces the contents to ash (or nearly ash). It's important for medical facilities to know what is pathological waste in order to both ensure correct segregation and facilitate proper pathological waste disposal.
- Trace Chemotherapy Waste
Trace chemotherapy must also legally be incinerated rather than going through the autoclaving process. Like with pathological waste, the medical facility must segregate chemotherapy waste to ensure the waste management company sends it to the proper facility for destruction.
After sending the waste to the appropriate medical waste treatment facility, it is then processed. At that time, the waste no longer poses a health risk and can be landfilled.
Why Reliability, Professionalism, and Experience Matter
Working with a disposal company that is in any way disreputable or unreliable puts you at risk for various financial fines.
The following are just some ways a poor waste management disposal company can cost you money:
If your waste management company is not organized or experienced, they might not realize you need or provide the proper paperwork to be keeping in your records regarding each medical waste disposal transaction. If OSHA shows up to your place of business, you need to be able to provide copies of any paperwork that explains when shipments were made and where they went. This includes, but is not limited to, either the bill of lading or, depending on the type of waste, a copy of the hazardous waste manifest.
A reputable company should also be able to provide copies of the certificate of destruction upon request. This document proves the waste went through the medical waste incinerator without any issues.
- Insurance Claims
If there is an accident involving your medical waste, you need to be sure your medical waste disposal company has adequate insurance to cover the cleanup and damage. It's your responsibility to confirm this before signing any waste management service agreement. Also ask about their transportation permits and receiving permits. A reputable company should happily and easily provide this documentation.
For more information about the life cycle of medical waste or your role as the generator of that waste, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, an established waste management Atlanta company