Written by Megan Chamberlain
10 Jul 2019

5 Healthcare Waste Compliance Facts

Did you know that state laws and rules for healthcare waste compliance are often more strict that the regulations of the federal government? Healthcare waste management is not a choice. It’s the law. If you’re not following the rules, you leave your facility at risk for not only closure, but fines and penalties, and damage to your reputation until you fix the problems.

 

Daniels Health knows how many regulatory agencies are involved in compliance. A lot. Federal regulatory agencies alone include:

  • Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for numerous federal regulations regarding the segregation, handling, and treatment of medical waste and hazardous waste.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who oversees the Department of Transportation HAZMAT training requirements for any medical waste generator that uses a waste disposal pick up companies services.
  • Department of Transportation
  • Drug Enforcement Agency

 

State regulations also differ in regard to how medical waste is segregated, stored, and transported. Every state in the country is responsible for regulating their own medical waste guidelines, legislation, fines and penalties, on top of what the federal government does. Don’t be caught unawares. There is no excuse for not being informed.

Medical waste generators of any size need to be familiar not only with state guidelines, but federal regulations when it comes to healthcare waste segregation and management.

 

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Five healthcare waste compliant facts you should know

01 / In addition to following federal healthcare waste management guidelines and proper segregation as well as labeling, storage, and disposal of medical waste, medical waste generators are also responsible for maintaining compliance with state laws.

You don’t to get to pick which guidelines you want to follow. You need to follow both. In many cases, state guidelines for treatment and handling of medical waste are more complicated and stringent than those of the federal government. Be prepared to identify and properly categorize all medical waste streams generated by your facility.

Doing so ensures that you are properly identifying different types of medical waste as well as state guidelines for their handling, storage, and ultimate disposal. Only by properly segregating different types of medical waste (infectious waste, anatomical waste, sharps waste, etc.) can you maintain compliance in regard to ultimate on-site or off-site disposal options, such as incineration, chemical treatments, or autoclaving as examples.

 

02 / Be aware of the difference between small quantity and large quantity generator requirements based on your state,

as they can and often do differ in regard to volume, containment and storage guidelines, treatment options (on-site or off-site), and registration as well as licensing and fee specifications. A healthcare facility that’s registered as a small quantity generator (SQG) that goes over their limit in regard to volume of waste is at risk of noncompliance. County and/or state departments charge annual permit fees and medical waste generators must pay for each pound of medical waste that is treated. Trying to skirt these rules can end up costing facilities tens of thousands of dollars per day, per violation.

 

03 / Sharps are considered medical waste.

Anything that contains certain body fluids, including liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials or components, or anything that is saturated with blood must be segregated, contained, and treated as medical waste. Improper segregation and management of discarded sharps including needles poses not only health risks to employees of a medical facility, but the general public. Following regulations not only ensures compliance, but can reduce needlestick injury scenarios in the healthcare facility, saving costs in sharps injury treatments as well as reducing the risk of fines and penalties for not properly disposing of sharps in a compliant sharps container as well as proper sharps container placement.

 

In 1988, the Medical Waste Tracking Act was enacted, in specific response to used syringes that were polluting beaches along the eastern seaboard. While this act was only in place for a couple of years, it did accomplish a number of benefits: cradle-to-grave tracking systems, establishment of standards for  medical waste segregation, containment or packaging, labeling, as well as storage, proper record-keeping requirements and instituting penalties for mismanagement or noncompliance.

 

04 / Be aware that healthcare waste compliance is not limited to medical or healthcare facilities.

Any type of business that generates potentially infectious or any type of medical waste is also regulated by federal and state guidelines. For example, veterinarians and veterinary practices, funeral homes, long-term care and rehab facilities as well as tattoo and body piercing parlors are also required to follow federal and state guidelines in regard to medical waste compliance.

 

05 / Mixing non-hazardous medical waste with hazardous or infectious waste is something you want to avoid entirely.

Medical waste has to be properly categorized and segregated to maintain compliance. Failure to properly segregate different medical waste stream categories can compromise the safety and health of not only patients, but healthcare employees and the general public. It’s illegal! It goes beyond segregation however. Proper labeling, size of labels, and biohazard and other labels defining the waste stream category is essential and must be visible on all sides of containers. Any employee placing certain types of waste, such as sharps or biohazard waste into the wrong container can get your facility into trouble with both federal and state regulatory agencies.

 

This brief overview of just five common healthcare waste compliance facts that you should know are only the tip of the iceberg. To ensure that you stay on the right side of the law, and compliant at all times, visit the EPA’s website and become familiar with guidelines on medical waste laws and regulations as defined by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

These two websites alone provide in-depth information regarding proper management of hazardous as well as non-hazardous waste, RCRA regulations for segregation, handling, and treatment of each, as well as numerous resources for state guidelines and officials that include policies and documents based on state authorizations, data, checklists, and guidance for sustainable management practices.

Daniels Health is devoted to proper management of medical waste, designing compliant sharps container options, waste segregation services, and guidance so every healthcare facility regardless of size maintains compliance and avoids hefty fines and penalties. We understand that cost and a facility’s bottom line is extremely important, but so too is reducing the volume of healthcare waste that ends up in our landfills. For additional information on Daniels Health, waste stream identification, compliant disposal methods, long-term sustainability and cost savings, call us today.

 

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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Compliance and Digital Solutions 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.