Written by Megan Chamberlain
09 Nov 2018

Guide to Pennsylvania Medical Waste Regulations

Just what you wanted. More rules and regulations. The good news is that this is just an overview of Pennsylvania’s medical waste regulations. It’s short and sweet. That doesn’t mean you can skip reading deeper into state laws on the topic. Why not? Because if you don’t know the rules for Pennsylvania’s healthcare waste management guidelines, you can get into trouble.

 

Not enough of an incentive? Did you know that if your facility generates medical waste of any kind, you can get fined tens of thousands of dollars, per day, for each day you’re found to be non-compliant? Think of what that can do to your fiscal stability, not to mention your reputation.

Have we scared you? We hope so. Daniels Health has seen it happen before, but we’re here to help you avoid fines and penalties. We’re here to help with your waste segregation issues, ensure compliance with federal as well as state guidelines, and – as a bonus – reduce the volume of medical waste going to your local landfills. Sounds like a win-win situation, no?

Before we can do that however, you need to know at least some of the basics.

 

Getting a handle on Pennsylvania’s regulations

In addition to federal guidelines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) as well as other agencies, any medical waste generator in Pennsylvania needs to be familiar with administrative and legislative codes and laws of the state. In many cases, state guidelines are even more stringent than federal guidelines.

In Pennsylvania, general provisions regarding regulated medical waste are found under Pa. Chapter 284 and include topics such as:

  • General provisions and permits
  • Segregation and storage (§284.401)
  • Collection and transportation (§284.501)
  • Transporter licensing
  • Tracking of regulated medical and chemotherapy waste (§284.701)

 

Why should a medical facility be bothered with rules regarding transportation? Because it is the ultimate responsibility of the medical waste generator, not medical waste pickup companies, to ensure that medical waste has been segregated and properly labeled for transportation. That’s because different waste streams often fall under different transportation and disposal requirements. Basically, YOU are the ultimate person in charge of this aspect of medical or hazardous waste disposal. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the rules.

A more complete review of Pennsylvania’s medical waste regulations are found under 25 Pennsylvania Code §284.1 through §284.734. These codes are very specific and detailed. A good starting place is code §271.1, where you’ll find a list of important definitions. This code provides very precise clarification of certain types of medical waste including blood products, body fluids, chemotherapy waste, hazardous waste, infectious waste and/or agents, pathological waste, and so forth.

 

Another important code section to be familiar with is subchapter E of the Pennsylvania code regarding segregation and storage. For example:

  • §284.412 covers basic storage requirements
  • §284.413 discusses storage containers, while §284.414 offers specific instructions for marking of containers.

 

Do you know how long you can store regulated medical waste? You can find that under §284.415. Can you reuse containers? The answers to that are found in §284.417.

Yes, oftentimes the rules and regulations may seem never-ending, often convoluted, and most of the time, confusing, but Daniels Health can help you navigate these regulations so that you stay compliant.

Are you aware why you need to segregate different types of medical waste? Pennsylvania’s biohazard waste regulations are quite stringent and require that any type of infectious waste (except used sharps) can be stored up to 30 days from the date that waste was tossed into the container.

Who controls medical waste disposal regulations in Pennsylvania? They fall under the purview of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. However, they’re not the only agency that monitors medical waste. Pennsylvania’s guidelines also fall under OSHA’s federal program in regard to handling of medical or infectious waste. They provide requirements and guidelines for sharps management, sharps container guidelines, as well as the types of containers that store medical or infectious waste. They also provide instruction for the proper labeling and placement of labels on containers and red bags.

 

Numerous agencies involved in medical waste

A handful (if not more) of agencies are involved in healthcare waste management as well as disposal. We’ve already mentioned two of them: the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But you also have to be aware of the guidelines and regulations provided by:

 

  • The Department of Transportation
  • The FDA
  • The Centers for Disease Control
  • The Drug Enforcement Agency

 

Each of these federal agencies also add their two cents’ worth of guidelines for medical waste disposal. The medical waste business is big, and for good reason. Proper segregation of waste, conduction of waste audit and waste stream processes not only protects the general public, but the environment. Daniels Health is dedicated to providing sustainable, efficient, and effective medical waste solutions, from proper sharps container placement to CO2 emissions reduction and decreasing the volume of medical waste that heads to local landfills.

Any facility that generates medical waste, from your local dental office to your veterinary clinic, has the potential to avoid noncompliance issues. Just a couple of years ago, a number of hospitals in Pennsylvania improperly mix their medical waste with municipal waste and ended up illegally dumping that waste at a local landfill. The Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection conducted an investigation and leveled a nearly a half-million dollar fine against those hospitals. Another healthcare network in Pennsylvania was fined nearly $90,000 for similar violations that were found to be non-compliant with Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act.

These two scenarios were not done deliberately, but due to lack of training and information. Don’t let this happen to you. It is every healthcare worker’s responsibility to know what to do with those used sharps to reduce improper segregation and disposal of medical waste.

Knowing how to tackle waste segregation methodically, effectively, while reducing the number of people handling such waste is not only essential for protecting employees and medical staff, but ensuring that medical waste is properly disposed of.

Hundreds of pages of regulations and guidelines are typically found under federal and state guidelines for healthcare waste segregation and medical waste disposal. You don’t have to do it alone. Daniels Health knows the laws. We provide medical waste segregation, auditing, and disposal solutions that will keep your facility in compliance. For more information about what we can do for you, give us a call today.

Header Style: 
Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content Marketing & Multimedia Specialist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Daniels Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to girl for all things compliance.