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.
Medical Waste Disposal and Increased Efficiency in a Hospital
Every second counts when it comes to saving lives inside of a busy hospital. Here, efficiency is not just about cutting corners to cut costs, it is about decreasing the number of steps it takes to provide quality medical care to patients in need. One way in which you can improve on this is by implementing a medical waste disposal system that is customized to meet the demands of your hospital.
Identifying the Sources of Medical Waste inside of a Hospital
The first step towards optimizing efficiency in a hospital is by locating all of the sources of medical waste. This is a big undertaking for large hospitals, especially where there are multiple patient care areas. Following the trail of a patient, you will find that biological by-products are in the intake salon, exam areas, patient rooms and surgery suites. Each one will have its own needs in regards to medical waste disposal.
- Intake Nurse Station – Patients will enter an emergency room in all types of physical condition. To maintain efficiency, the intake salon should have red bag containers readily available. This will allow the attending staff to quickly dispose of biological waste safely without having to lose focus on the patient.
- Exam Areas – Rows of beds and limited space inside of an emergency room make it difficult for medical staff to move around. When looking at containers for medical waste disposal you will want those that can be kept out of the way of patients and personnel, while still being easily accessible. Sharps disposal and red bag waste will both be necessary in emergency exam areas of a hospital.
- Patient Rooms – Each unit of your hospital will need to be observed and managed as a separate entity. What works in rooms for older patients for example may not be appropriate for pediatric patient rooms. Other special conditions may also apply when looking at a floor that is dedicated to a specialty services, such as chemotherapy suites. To maintain efficiency, personnel should look at the distance from patient beds to the medical waste containers, making sure that staff can reach them easily while conducting procedures such as drawing blood.
- Surgery Suites – Surgical areas in a hospital generate more biological waste at one time than any other area. To maintain efficiency, seek containers that are easy to move, but that will not leak if overturned or shifted abruptly. Systems should be in place that ensure the quick removal of all medical waste from the salon after procedures are complete to prevent any type of accidental cross examination. With all the medical waste confined, it will be faster to expedite its safe removal from the surgery suite and into a secure medical waste disposal area.
A professional medical waste disposal company can assist hospital administrators in the assessment of their facility and placement of medical waste containers to improve efficiency. A key component in the disposal of medical waste is to be able to do so in a way that does not interfere with direct patient care, while at the same time protecting the health of those who may come into contact with it.