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Biological Waste Disposal for Clinics

Biological Waste Disposal for Clinics

Is Your Clinic Prepared if a Zika Crisis Hits?

With the seasons about to change for the warmer across the continental United States, there is an increased chance that the mysterious Zika Virus will affect more Americans. So far this epidemic has been relatively confined to central and South America, but cases have been reported in Puerto Rico, and one Zika related death as a result. Clinic workers need to be aware of this possibility, and take special precautions to help prevent the spread.

One way that this can be done is by following the basic guidelines for biological waste disposal for clinics. The Zika virus is found in the blood, making it possible to be spread through the mishandling of any biological waste generated by a patient being treating for the illness.

What is Zika Virus Disease?

On February 1st of 2016, the WHO declared the Zika virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. According to the CDC it is likely that the virus will continue to spread to new areas. The disease is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, but since the outbreak, scientists have discovered the possibility that the virus is spread through human to human contact of bodily fluids. This gives any biological waste generated in your clinic through the care of an infected individual the possibility of spreading to someone else.

For the majority of individuals infected, the illness itself is mild, and may even go unnoticed. Symptoms last from a few days to a week, and may include red eyes, fever, rash and joint pain. The only way to confirm the presence of the Zika virus is through blood tests.

More alarming for health care workers is the risk to an unborn fetus if a pregnant woman becomes infection. There is a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes the brain to grow abnormally. Some studies have also suggested that Zika is causing a rise in Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a more serious illness that can cause the lungs to stop functioning.

Knowing the heightened risk of Zika, clinics should be reevaluating their biological waste disposal procedures to ensure that the spread of this virus is limited. All sharps should be immediately deposited into a sharps container, and other biological waste placed into receptacles that are not accessible to the public. Taking the time to make sure that every possible precaution is being made ensures the safety of your clinic workers, their families, and the public.

The CDC is reporting that the Zika virus can be found in the blood of an infected person for at least a week after transmission. If not careful, healthcare workers and clinics can inadvertently help to spread the disease by not disposing of contaminated sharps, vials, and other debris which has come into contact with blood. Get your clinic in line now, before the onset of summer brings an influx of Zika to the United States.

Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

The Do’s and Don’ts of Biological Waste Disposal for Dental Offices

The handling of biological waste in your dental office may not seem like it should be a priority for you, but it is to a number of different government agencies for various reasons. In order to stay out of trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and your local authorities, follow these basic rules for biological waste disposal for dental offices:

  • Do educate yourself and your employees on the rules and regulations surrounding biological waste and its correct handling and disposal processes.
  • Do work with a licensed and insured medical waste disposal company that is familiar with the specific needs of a dental office.
  • Do ensure that any plan devised for the management of biological waste inside of your dental office is specific to the needs of your facility.
  • Do place sharps containers in areas that are easily accessible to dental care providers as they work with patients.
  • Do make sure that all employees in your office are able to identify and segregate medical waste from common trash.

While that may all seem simple enough, you will quickly see that proper biological waste management is a lot more about what you should NOT do:

  • Don’t allow your medical waste to get mixed in with your regular trash.
  • Don’t place any sharps, including metal wires used for braces, inside of a plastic bag that can be punctured.
  • Don’t forget to label all biological waste containers with your office name, address and telephone number.
  • Don’t allow biological waste to be emptied into a container that has not been labeled for its collection.
  • Don’t let biological waste be put inside of a reusable container loosely. Always ensure that it is secured inside of a red bag or sharps container first.
  • Don’t allow biohazard containers, bags and sharps containers to become more than 3/4 full before replacing it with an empty container.
  • Don’t mistake amalgam, silver, lead foil packets and caustic cleaning agents as biological waste. These are all classified differently and need to be handled separate from the medical waste disposal containers in your dental office.
  • Don’t attempt to take on biological waste disposal management by yourself. Mistakes in practices and procedures will not only lead to large fines, they could pose a major public health hazard.

No matter how small your dental practice is, it is not wise to just wash your biological waste down the drain. Educate yourself on the local and federal regulations for medical waste, and then pass that knowledge down to all of your employees. It may seem like a lot of work for a modest office, but once you have your biological waste disposal company in place, all of your trash should end up where it belongs.

Biological Waste Disposal for Doctors Offices

Biological Waste Disposal for Doctor’s Offices

Is Your Doctor’s Office Complying With all Biological Waste Standards?

Biological waste disposal inside of a doctor’s office is ultimately the responsibility of the facility. Managing it can be a complicated issue, especially when trying to decipher the various regulations issued by state, local and federal governing bodies. One suggestion for a smaller doctor’s office would be to designate the packaging and transport within to a small team of employees that have been given special training for this responsibility.

Why is Biological Waste Packaging and Disposal Heavily Regulated?

A doctor’s office is responsible for the safe collection, packaging and disposal of all biological and hazardous waste generated during the course of patient care. This will include red plastic bags, sharps containers, and any other biohazardous waste. If your doctor’s office does not comply with the safe containment of biological waste and its disposal, you are potentially creating a community health issue and could face fines issued by the state and federal government.

The nature of biological waste poses a health hazard, particularly from bloodborne diseases. This is a multi-pronged issue, as there is a risk to healthcare workers, handlers, the public and the environment. For this reason, OSHA, EPA, and the FDA all have created certain guidelines for the safe transport and destruction of biological waste in doctor’s offices.

Special trash receptacles are used for the collection of biological waste at its source. Red plastic bags that are used for medical waste must be tear resistant and marked clearly to distinguish it from other trash. If using reusable containers, these must be constructed to not leak, preferably using gaskets at the opening door to prevent any leakage if accidentally overturned.

The collection of sharps is always as close as possible to the source of contamination, typically exam rooms. These are disposed of immediately in a sharps container by the health care professional who handled it. The FDA also state that a sharps container not be filled to more than 3/4 of its capacity to prevent accidental injury to an employee. Having the sharps container regularly changed out will ensure that your doctor’s offices meet that standard.

All sharps containers must also be:

  • Made using a highly durable and puncture proof plastic
  • Closeable, with a tight fitting lid that does not allow sharps placed inside to be pulled back out
  • Able to stand upright or be mounted onto a wall in an upright position
  • Leak proof, both along the bottom and sides
  • Labeled as a biological waste container containing sharp objects

Special attention is given to sharps by the FDA and OSHA because of their ability to immediately pierce the skin and introduce a bloodborne pathogen directly into the handler’s bloodstream. Ensure your doctor’s office is always in compliance with these regulations to avoid any transmission of disease to one of your healthcare employees.

Biological waste disposal for doctor’s offices is complicated, and does require a lot of work to stay up to date and compliant. Your best recourse is to work directly with a disposal company that can train your employees how to transport any biological waste from its source, and who will pick it up at your facility and transport it securely to a destination where it will safely be destroyed without harming the environment.

Biological Waste Disposal for Hospitals

Biological Waste Disposal for Hospitals

The Risk Posed to Healthcare Providers By Unregulated Biological Waste Disposal

Doctors, nurses and other employees in a hospital are so busy seeing to the care of others that they forget to take care of themselves. In a hospital environment, workers are exposed to all kinds of health threats, especially when dealing with medical waste. All healthcare workers in a hospital should be aware of the risks that medical waste raises, and avoid them at any cost.

Some of the most basic ways a healthcare worker can avoid contamination when handling medical waste is to:

  • Immediately wash their hands with soap and warm water after transporting medical waste
  • Refrain from touching the mouth, eyes, nose, face or any other bare skin while handling medical waste
  • Wash hands before using the bathroom if they have recently been in contact with medical waste
  • Remove protective clothes and wash hands before eating

Hospital employers should be providing protective clothing and gear to health workers who are handling medical waste. Hand washing areas must also be readily available and in good working order at all times. Some of the necessary equipment that may be worn by hospital workers transporting medical waste include:

  • Safety goggles
  • A face shield or mask
  • Coveralls
  • Plastic aprons
  • Protective gloves
  • Rubber boots

Additionally, biological waste disposal in hospitals necessitates continuous training of all personnel who comes into contact with it. Employees should know how to identify and separate biological waste at the source, segregate it into the correct container, and safely transport it when the container reaches capacity. Those who work with the transport and storage of biological waste will also need to know proper labeling and moving procedures as well as how to react in the event of a spillage.

Proper handling of biological waste in hospitals and following mandated work procedures helps to reduce the risk of an employee being infected with a bloodborne pathogen. This is the main concern of OSHA, one of the many government bodies overseeing biological waste for hospitals. They study the practices in place from the perspective of the employee, looking to eliminate any possibility of a hospital becoming ill as a result of their handling of biological waste in the workplace.

In order to protect hospital workers, OSHA has developed certain steps they believe to be important for the safe collection and transport of biological waste. Included in OSHA’s guidelines are the following regulations:

  • All biological waste has a final disposal area, separate inside a hospital
  • The use of puncture proof containers for sharps disposal
  • All biological waste be clearly marked
  • The outside of containers holding medical waste not be contaminated
  • Procedures are in place that ensure that containers holding biological waste can be transported without risk of contamination

Healthcare workers in a hospital are urged to follow all of these guidelines in order to maintain their own physical health and well-being. This is crucial in order for them to be able to continue providing quality care to the patients who need it.

Biological Waste Disposal for Surgery Centers

Biological Waste Disposal for Surgery Centers

5 Steps to Help Prevent the Spread of Disease in a Surgery Center

The recent Ebola breakout shocked the medical world. Not only because of the sheer number of people infected, but by the fact that medical personnel became infected as well. Improper handling of biological waste is one way in which any type of infection can be spread to workers in a surgery center.

The modern acceptance of outpatient surgeries has led to an added responsibility in small surgery centers. In order to help prevent the spread of an infectious disease found inside of organs, human tissue and blood being removed at a surgery center, these 5 steps should be followed at all times:

  1. Proper Hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment – Surgery center workers who are going to be exposed to infectious disease should be outfitted in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when performing procedures on patients. This includes the use of gloves, masks and special gowns that are disposed of after use. Removing these protective items must be done in a way that does not spread biological waste elements onto other clothing. Workers should also wash their hands with soap and water immediately after removing PPE in order to reduce the risk of spreading an infection.
  2. Ongoing Training of Staff – The continual reminder to surgery center employees about the importance of infection control is critical to mitigate the risk. Hold special training classes and keep surgeons informed of any new practices and policies that are put into place to better manage potentially infectious biological and pathological waste disposal.
  3. Partnering With a Reputable Medical Waste Disposal Company – The prompt removal of infectious biological waste will reduce the risk of contamination to workers in your surgery center. Enlist the help of a medical waste removal company that allows for a flexible schedule of pick-ups to ensure that you do not accumulate large amounts of infectious waste in your facility’s storage areas.
  4. Be Able to Identify the Different Categories of Medical Waste – A surgery center produces basic medical waste such as soiled linens, dressing and sharps, but you could also be generating pathological waste. Pathological waste includes organs, tissue, body parts and the products of conception. Talk with your disposal provider to enact a strategy for the safe and compliant removal of these items from your surgery center.
  5. Keep Biological Waste Away from Patient Areas – To avoid the spread of infection, biological waste should be contained in a receptacle that is clearly marked for its special purpose. Since non-medical individuals like patients will not understand the significance, it is important that these containers not be easily accessible in areas where patients are. To further reduce the risk of accidental contamination, the outsides of these containers should be kept impeccably clean at all times.
Biological Waste Disposal For Veterinarians

Biological Waste Disposal For Veterinarians

How is Biological Waste Defined in a Veterinary Practice?

Veterinarians are held to the same standards as physicians and medical facilities when it comes to the safe handling of biological waste. This starts at the source of the medical waste and does not end until it has been properly disposed of in a way that does not pose any type of risk to humans or the environment. Understanding what constitutes as biological waste in your veterinary practice is the first step towards its proper collection and disposal.

It seems easy enough, as the word waste typically refers to anything that we no longer have use or need for, but waste is more complicated at the medical level. This is due primarily to the possibility of bloodborne pathogens being present in the waste which could pose the threat of spreading an infectious disease. Animal biological waste is not exempt from the special standards in place for its reintroduction into the environment.

Solid Waste

The EPA defines all solid waste as being any garbage or refuse generated inside of a veterinary office. This would include animal tissue, fluids, carcasses, laboratory chemicals, syringes, medical supply waste, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs and equipment, light bulbs, batteries and mercury found in thermometers. This is a very broad category, but the EPA further breaks it down into two sub-categories; hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste. Typical medical waste generated by the practices of veterinarians will fall under the non-hazardous category and would include things such as:

  • Animal bedding
  • Wound dressings
  • Syringes
  • Tissue samples

Where it may get confusing for a veterinarian is that while these are not considered “hazardous” wastes in the way that some solvents, drugs and batteries are, they may be considered a “bio-hazard”. Bio-hazardous medical waste is defined as material that could potentially contain infectious disease pathogens that pose a health risk those who come into contact with it. Almost all of the waste generated during routine treatment of animals in your practice should be classified as a bio-hazard to eliminate any risk of potentially spreading a bloodborne disease.

Bio-hazardous waste is also referred to as regulated medical waste and includes the following:

  • The equipment, instruments and tools of a disposable nature that have been used in the diagnosis or treatment of an animal who is suspected of having a communicable disease.
  • Tissues, blood samples and other excretions taken from a patient and used to help diagnose an infection or disease.
  • Any specimens removed during surgery of the animal.

Special disposal practices are required for the various forms of biological waste that a veterinarian is generating in their day to day practices. The complications in definitions and various procedures necessitate a professional biological waste disposal company to assist you in segregating and disposing of waste in a way that is in full compliance with local laws, yet does not interfere with patient care.

Biological Waste Disposal and Management

Biological Waste Disposal and Management

Do You Know Where Biological Waste Goes After It Leaves Your Facility?

Biological waste poses a public health concern because of their potential for causing infectious disease outbreaks. These are defined as being any solid waste that has been generated as a result of the diagnosis, treatment and immunization of humans or animals. This can also apply to institutions involved in research, production and testing of biological materials.

Biological Waste Disposal and Management Outside of the Facility

Red bags, special containers and labels assist a facility in the management of biological waste to avoid contamination of employees and patients, but once they are picked up from your facility they undergo complex processes to avoid contamination of the public.

Special treatment of biological waste generated by a hospital, doctor’s office or other medical facility is necessary in order to:

  • Disinfect the biological waste so that it is no longer a viable source of infection.
  • Reduce the volume of biological waste in the environment.
  • Make biological waste unrecognizable.
  • Make any recycled items impossible to be reused in another application.

Disposal Methods of Biological Waste

How medical waste is disposed of outside of the facility is the reason behind the need for separation inside. For example, in some areas deep burial of biological waste may be permitted, but only if it is human anatomical waste or animal waste. Other types of waste, including sharps, will receive autoclave and microwave treatment. This process melts the waste down into a liquid form that is deemed free of any disease causing pathogens.

Other options include incineration of biological waste, but the leftover ash will then be transported to a secured landfill. Shredding of plastic is also a viable method of biological waste disposal, but only after the material has received decontamination treatment or sterilization.

Your biological waste disposal service provider will document the generated medical waste picked up at your facility and the processes used to secure it afterwards. You will be provided with manifests of these procedures, which must be kept in your files for an allocated period of time.

Extensive safety measures are utilized to ensure the secure transport of biological waste from your facility to the treating one. Drivers and collectors are fully aware of the risk involved in the shipping of these materials, and have been trained in proper procedures for the event of a spill. As further precaution they are provided with protective clothing and gloves to use throughout transport.

Biological waste disposal and management is taken very seriously at each stage, starting in your facility and ending in the landfill. Partner with a responsible company that has experience in the removal and destruction of biological waste to help in protecting the environment and population from any possible contamination.