Do Your Clinic Workers Know What Does Not Go In the Red Bag?
When discussing medical waste disposal for clinics, a lot of emphasis is put on the red bags, and what can go inside. These seem like the ideal solution for all the medical waste that a clinic generates daily, yet there are certain items that they should not hold. Make sure that your employees are just as knowledgeable about what stays out of the red bag as they are about what needs to go inside.
Clinic workers know that needles and syringes belong in their little red boxes after use, but can overlook other sharps. Sharps medical waste is defined as being any object that has been contaminated with a pathogen or that may become contaminated with a pathogen through handling. It is also capable of penetrating or cutting skin or packing material… like a red bag. In addition to needles, sharps can include broken glass, scalpels, slides, capillary tubes and broken plastic. All of these must first go inside of a rigid medical waste container before they can be placed inside of the red bag.
Pharmaceutical Drug Waste
Drugs that meet the criteria for being a hazardous waste need to be separated from your clinic’s red bag medical waste. The best practice is to have hazardous pharmaceuticals incinerated at a state approved medical waste disposal facility. Train your staff to learn which drugs are deemed hazardous and set aside separate bins for their disposal.
It is a waste of resources to allow for everyday garbage and recyclable materials to be carried out of a clinic in red bags. This includes food scraps, packaging material, light bulbs and paper. Initiate a recycling program for non-contaminated plastics, glass and metals, and dispose of the rest with your regular garbage pick up.
While trace chemotherapy waste may go into a red bag, it must be marked appropriately for incineration. Trace chemotherapy waste is defined as having less than 3% of the original contents by weight. Empty drug vials, syringes, IV bags and tubing used for chemotherapy will all need to be separately sorted and bagged inside the clinic.
Small quantities of liquids in stoppered vials can be placed inside of red bags, but bulk fluids may not unless they have been properly solidified first. Even then, your clinic will have to verify that the liquid is viable for red bag waste disposal. Liquid medical waste of any type should always be secured in containers specially designed to reduce the risk of leakage.
A mistake made in some clinics is the assumption that the red bags are the catch all for all of your waste. This can be a dangerous practice as well as a waste of resources. School clinic employees thoroughly on the use of red bags to ensure that yours are being used properly, and in compliance with the state and federal regulations.