When In Doubt, Don’t Throw it Out in a Red Bag
Surgery center administrators have financial reasons behind managing medical waste disposal. Allowing employees to toss the remains of lunch, newspapers and other trash into red bags is not dangerous per say, but it does end up costing you more money in plastic bags and pick-ups. There are other items that could cost you money in fines if found inside a red bag, and in some cases could even land you in jail.
Medical Waste Versus Hazardous Materials
Untrained surgery center personnel may not completely understand what medical waste is, or how it differs from certain hazardous waste. Since it is obviously being treated differently due to the red bag, containers and stickers, they wrongly assume that these containers are acceptable for any type of questionable garbage. This is not only a costly mistake to make, it is one that could have a severe negative impact on the environment.
If your surgery center generates or handles any type of hazardous products, employees must be trained on their proper disposal. This starts by identifying what the hazardous products are, and then devising a plan for their removal from your surgery center without being mixed with the biological waste.
Identifying Hazardous Waste in a Surgery Center
All hazardous waste is prohibited from being left inside of a medical waste container, either red bags or a plastic sharps box. This could include, but is not limited to:
- Formaldehyde products
- Batteries of any kind, including those used for cell phones
- Florescent light bulbs
- Any device that contains mercury
- Certain chemicals such as acids or ammonia
- Any container that has a posted hazardous warning sign
It is extremely important that all employees working inside of your surgery center understand the importance of separating hazardous from any biological waste. The methods used to eliminate biological waste and reduce them to a form that is not harmful to the environment are not the same as those used for hazardous waste products. By ignoring these restrictions you could be putting the health of others in serious risk.
What to Do With Hazardous Waste Products
The correct procedures for hazardous waste will differ depending on the type. If you use a hazardous product regularly in your center, talk with your medical waste disposal company to devise a solution for its safe removal from the facility. School all employees on what is appropriate for red bags, sharps containers and other biological waste receptacles, and instruct them to ask if they are unsure about any item.
OSHA and the EPA are very invested in what a surgery center is doing with their waste. Avoid getting caught having to pay hefty fines by ensuring all of your staff members know exactly what is not allowed inside of a red bag.