What is Hazardous Waste?
Hospitals and medical facilities exist to treat and prevent medical conditions. They are dedicated to the safety and health of their patients in every way, including the proper handling and disposal of medical waste.
Medical waste is a subset of waste that may be contaminated by blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially infectious materials (OPIMs). The different types of medical waste are separated into 4 categories – infectious, hazardous, radioactive, and general waste. Each requires its own methods of collection, treatment, and disposal.
Understanding each type of medical waste keeps healthcare providers, patients, and others safe from health hazards and injuries. Several federal agencies have regulations regarding medical waste. The EPA, CDC, OSHA, HIPAA, and FDA require compliance with proper handling and disposal procedures.
Hazardous Medical Waste
Hazardous medical waste is non-infectious, but can negatively affect humans, animals, or the environment. Common types of hazardous waste include chemicals, medications, and sharps. Identifying hazardous waste can be done by searching through the 400+ items listed on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations or by meeting one of these characteristics:
- Ignitability: Substances that easily catch fire.
- Corrosivity: Substances that erode or eat away at other materials.
- Reactivity: Substances that are unstable, explosive, or become toxic when under pressure, mixed with water or another substance, or exposed to heat.
- Toxicity: Anything that can cause harm or death if ingested and/or absorbed.
Strict regulations are enforced for hazardous waste to be collected and disposed of safely. Laws vary at state and local levels, so be sure you are aware of regulations for your area.
Handling Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste should be placed in a hazardous waste container in a secure area. It is helpful for hospitals and clinics to maintain a site map of containers throughout the facility.
Containers should have a secure lid and be free of any cracks or leaks. Hazardous labels must be visible on the containers and include that date of when the first hazardous item was put into the container. When a hazardous waste container is full, it must go to the main accumulation room within 3 days.
Disposing of Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste containers are color-coded to separate different types of waste. Hazardous medical waste can be placed in one of the following colored bins:
Yellow bins are designated for chemotherapy waste that has less than 3% of its original volume. Less than 3% is considered “RCRA empty” and can include empty syringes, vials, and IV bags.
Black bins are for chemotherapy waste containing more than 3% of its original volume. Waste disposed of in these bins include partially used vials, IV bags and tubing, cleaning materials, or discarded personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hazardous pharmaceutical waste should be collected in blue bins. RCRA has designated certain pharmacy products to be hazardous including nicotine, expired and unused pills, and a number of medications.
Disposal methods for hazardous medical waste depends on the type of waste. Incineration, autoclaving, and microwaving are all possible disposal options. Professional medical waste disposal companies will know the best treatments for each type and complete disposal accordingly.
Learn More about Safe Handling of Medical Waste with Medical Waste Pros
Medical Waste Pros has helped healthcare organizations across the country learn how to safely handle and dispose of medical waste. We offer HIPAA and other compliance training programs and reliable medical waste disposal services. We look forward to helping you maintain legal requirements and mitigate risk in your medical facility today. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370 or fill out the form to receive free quotes on our services and training programs today.