8 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Waste Management and Compliance
The new year is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to assess your hospital or medical facility’s current waste management processes. With ever-changing rules and guidelines for healthcare and hazardous waste management, it’s important to ensure that your facility is compliant. This reduces the risk of unscheduled inspections, audits, and alarming fines and penalties.
Check out these New Year’s resolutions for cost-effective solutions that can improve waste management practices your facility currently has in place.
NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS:
2 / Waste Segregation and Minimization
3 / Adopt Sustainable Waste Containers
5 / Distribute Safety Data Sheets
8 / Look for Recycling Opportunities
Resolution #1: Education and Training
Ensure that every staff member can identify the difference between regulated medical waste (RMW), hazardous waste, and “other” medical waste. RMW is the classification for wastes that are contaminated with blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials, thus posing risk of transmitting infection. Hazardous waste, if not specifically categorized, is typically defined by one or more of its characteristics, which include toxicity, corrosivity, ignitability, and flammability. Every employee should be aware of and understand specific state laws and definitions for different waste streams.
Resolution #2: Waste Segregation and Minimization
Take steps to minimize the volume of waste produced by your facility. This means proper identification of waste streams by following approved (and compliant) methods of handling and disposing of each. Be aware that any time waste streams are mixed, that waste must be treated at its highest level of danger. For example, if even one piece of hazardous waste ends up in a non-hazardous waste bin or trashcan, that entire contents of that bin or trashcan must be disposed of as hazardous waste. As a general rule, the greater the risk associated with the waste, the higher the disposal costs.
Resolution #3: Adopt Sustainable Waste Containers
If your facility is not doing it already, opt for recyclable or reusable waste containers to handle a variety of waste streams in your environment. Color-coded recyclable and/or reusable containers in medical scenarios are an excellent way to not only save money, but to maintain compliance. Doing so is also beneficial to the environment and reduces potential for contamination with other waste streams or to those handling such waste.
Resolution #4: Compliance Review
Take time to review federal guidelines provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the regulations found under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA provides detailed information regarding hazardous waste regulations along with resources and tools to ensure compliance. State-by-state guidance is also provided by the EPA and can be found here.
Resolution #5: Distribute Safety Data Sheets
Any healthcare or medical provider who utilizes a hazardous chemical should make safety data sheets (SDS) readily available to every department in a hospital or healthcare setting environment. Safety data sheets provide important and valuable information regarding a variety of chemical substances and how they are to be safely handled. It’s not enough to simply have them available. Whether such substances are in a dispensary, storeroom, a supply closet, or used in medical treatments or procedure rooms, safety data sheets provide information not only regarding molecular and chemical properties, but how they behave and what they can do if a person is exposed to them. These sheets also contain first aid measures, firefighting guidance, and strategies to implement in the event of accidental release, as well as other important information.
Resolution #6: Prepare for the Worst
Every healthcare-based facility regardless of size should have an emergency readiness plan in place. It’s not enough to post the emergency plan, but to train all employees to put those plans into action. This applies to mock fire drills and evacuation drills. Maintain a current list of individuals from each department who are responsible for activating emergency operations, and their specific roles and responsibilities. An excellent example of such a plan is the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule Toolkit: Hospitals, published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Resolution #7: Self Audit
Perform routine audits to ensure that every department within a facility or hospital is following best practices regarding waste minimization and proper segregation. Waste audits are essential in discerning hospital or medical facility waste streams. A waste audit can ensure that your facility is in compliance with not only regulations but waste minimization goals that are set by local, state, and federal government agencies. Audits are also effective in quantifying waste volumes and identifying opportunities for waste minimization, which offers potential cost savings.
Resolution #8: Look for Recycling Opportunities
Following along the lines of Resolution #7, a waste audit also helps in the identification of waste categories and subcategories in any medical environment, such as volume and type of solid waste, regulated medical waste, pharmaceutical waste, or hazardous waste produced by your facility. Audits also aid in the identification of items that can be reused or recycled, such as computers or electronics. Recycling opportunities are found by identifying subcategories such as plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, and so forth. Reduce waste management costs by reducing or recycling wastes that don’t require special handling.
Start the New Year Off Right
These are just a few tips and strategies to improve waste management in hospital and other medical environments. Do your part to ensure that best processes are used in your facility to minimize waste generation and to reduce the volume of waste that ends up in landfills.
Daniels Health wants to encourage all hospitals and medical facilities, regardless of size, scope, or location, to improve waste management strategies that not only ensure compliance, but protect human health and the environment. For more information on Daniels Health’s sustainable and cost-effective products, services, and resources, contact us today.