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
- 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.