Guide to Minnesota Medical Waste Regulations
No doubt about it, medical waste regulations for Minnesota are strict, but as with all states, medical waste regulations are often managed by different agencies. In Minnesota, that means the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. However, in addition to state-wide environmental regulations for treatment, handling, and disposal of medical waste produced in the state of Minnesota, federal guidelines also apply, especially when it comes to the packaging and storage of medical waste.
This guide is a starting point for healthcare employees of the state of Minnesota. These guidelines apply to every healthcare employee in the state, from maintenance and housekeeping staff to physicians, nursing, auxiliary staff support and management. It is the responsibility of every person working in any healthcare facility (from a dental office to a veterinary facility to a university hospital) to be aware of medical waste disposal regulations.
Minnesota’s medical waste regulation basics
When it comes to Minnesota, specific requirements for medical waste disposal are found in several locations. The Pollution Control Agency has very clear and specific guidelines in regard to medical waste generated by healthcare facilities. For this reason, Minnesota’s healthcare providers must maintain compliance with federal, state, and local or county biohazardous waste regulations. Failure to do so or lack of compliance in any particular aspect of biohazardous waste disposal can incur massive fines and penalties amounting to the tens of thousands of dollars.
The Pollution Control Agency of Minnesota’s website covers a number of regulations such as:
- Segregation or evaluation – an important step in segregating different waste stream medical waste as well as separating hazardous from nonhazardous waste prior to disposal
Over two dozen guidance documents are also available, covering topics such as the evaluation of pharmaceutical waste, management of universal waste, and guidance for compliance when it comes to hazardous waste disposal documentation and forms. Minnesota’s coverage of such topics are in-depth and detailed, so no employee, department head, manager, or administrator has any excuses when it comes to not knowing the rules.
Minnesota even goes so far as to provide step-by-step instructions in PDF format to maintain compliance for handling and treatment of hazardous waste – and topics for all healthcare waste segregation and management. They also provide individual PDF instructions and general information on identification of wastes, hazardous waste disposal, empty containers, recycling hazardous waste, and characteristics of waste.
In addition to Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency, detailed medical waste disposal requirements are also found and specifically outlined under the state’s Infectious Waste Management rules (MR 7035.9100 – 7035.9150). These Minnesota administrative rules are found under these guidelines are very precise.
These guidelines cover:
- Packaging and labeling requirements, including how sharps should be disposed of (in rigid, puncture resistant containers that have lids or caps that are designed to preclude loss or leakage of the contents).
- Safety of sharps disposal such as the requirement that they “must remain packaged throughout collection, storage, decontamination, and any handling processes that proceed disposal, unless the sharps have been treated by a process that renders them incapable of inducing subdermal inoculation.” (7035.9120 Subpart B)
- Storage requirements for infections of pathological waste such as found in Subpart 2, among them: “…infectious or pathological waste must be segregated from other wastes in a storage area designed to prevent the entry of vermin. Storage areas for infectious or pathological waste must be secured to deny access by unauthorized persons and must be prominently marked with the international biohazard symbol and with the words “Infectious Waste” on or adjacent to the exterior of entry doors and access gates.”
You get the picture. Minnesota’s guidelines are readily available, basically meaning that the excuse of “I didn’t know” isn’t going to fly when it comes to audits or inspections.
More guidelines are provided inside the Infectious Waste Control Act, found under 2018 Minnesota statutes (116.75311 6.82). For example, Minnesota statute 116.76 covers definitions, so there is no ambiguity when it comes to what is deemed as an infectious agent in Minnesota – an organism that is capable of producing infection or infectious disease in humans, or the definition of infectious waste – meaning laboratory waste, blood, regulated body fluids, sharps, and research animal waste that have not been decontaminated.
Daniels Health has assisted medical facilities over decades of changing rules and guidelines, as well as providing solutions for safe handling of medical waste streams. We know that it’s not only the ethical and moral responsibility of every healthcare facility to ensure that their medical waste is properly handled, stored, and disposed of, it’s the law.
Minnesota provides easy-to-find resources regarding medical waste compliance. Additional guidelines for dealing with healthcare hazardous waste (or RCRA waste) can be found at the University of Minnesota, providing guidelines for any type of healthcare facility. Taking a “cradle to grave” approach of dealing with hazardous waste from point of origination through disposal is highly recommended. Federal guidelines require compliance in regard to accumulation through storage, manifesting, and record keeping.
Avoiding fines and penalties
Federal governmental and state agencies can, and will, impose massive fines on any medical facility that fails to maintain compliance. The same applies to Minnesota’s enforcement actions in it comes to handling violations. Administrative penalty orders in Minnesota are levied to ensure compliance and are specific regarding corrective actions that must be taken by a facility to become compliant. In Minnesota, administrative penalty orders (APOs) require corrective actions to be completed within 30 days. Penalties of $20,000 per action may be imposed.
However, it should be noted that these APOs are typically relegated to violations that can be resolved relatively easily, but still warrant civil penalties. APOs may be designated as “non-forgivable” if violations are repetitive or serious in nature, and in some cases, certain scenarios include penalties that exceed $20,000 per violation. It should also be noted that other penalties and fines may also be applicable, levied by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or violations to the Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act.
Daniels Health realizes that reading through and understanding medical waste regulations in Minnesota is not only challenging, but often confusing to many. Even so, it is the responsibility of every healthcare facility in the state to be aware of such guidelines. Daniels Health can help you wade through the hundreds of pages of regulations to ensure compliance while at the same time providing our clients with effective, long-term and sustainable solutions to dealing with medical waste streams and hazardous waste disposal at all levels. For more information about how we can help you and your facility remain compliant, contact Daniels Health today.
If you would like further help navigating Minnesota's medical waste regulations, call one of our clinical experts today! Alternatively find out more about our Minnesota operations and service capabilities on our Minnesota service page here.