Written by Megan Chamberlain
10 Sep 2020

Tips for biomedical waste disposal in San Diego, California

San Diego, California, located near the southern border of the state, is not only known for its beautiful seashores and warm climate, dozens of parks and miles of sandy beaches but also its excellent healthcare facilities. San Diego is home to the Scripps La Jolla Hospital, UC San Diego Health-Jacobs Medical Center, and Sharp Memorial Hospital, ranked as the top three regional hospitals in San Diego by US News.

The vibrant city is also the location of dozens of specialty practices, outpatient surgical centers, long-term care centers, veterinary hospitals, and more. That’s a lot of hospital beds and patients seeking medical care – and biomedical waste. That means that every employee in every facility that provides health care services in the city of San Diego should know how to dispose of biomedical waste properly and in compliance with state and federal regulations.

 

Managing San Diego's biomedical waste

In California, biomedical waste is a type of medical waste that has the potential to be contaminated with or contain infected blood, pathogens, tissues, blood products, cells, or cultures that may cause harm to humans. People often confuse biological waste with pathological waste as something that only comes from the body, but it’s more than waste that results from surgical procedures, biopsies or tests.

When it comes to medical waste, biological and pathological waste streams are considered identical, especially because it comes from the human or animal body and has the potential to be contaminated with something infectious. In California, the definition of an infectious agent means any organism, bacteria, mold, parasite, or virus managed by biosafety levels 2, 3, or 4 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have the potential to contribute to a risk of increased mortality.

Medical waste regulations for San Diego, the county, and the entire state are thorough and complex. Federal and state guidelines for medical waste management is vital. You can’t choose between one and the other. Both must be followed. Your first tip is to access California’s Medical Waste Management Act (Sections 117600 through 118360) for education or a refresher on definitions and terminology. Other important regulations for disposal of biomedical waste in San Diego (and other cities throughout California) can be found under California’s Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 22, Division 4.5. The government link provides information provided by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Be aware that the California Department of Public Health regulates handling, storage, treatment and disposal of medical waste. The California code of regulations (Chapters 10 through 16) provide information regarding the overall hazardous waste management system of California, how to identify and list hazardous wastes, and standards that are applicable to generators who produce hazardous or biomedical waste. Standards also apply to those who transport such waste, and information regarding fees and permits.

 

Daniels Health has provided a few tips to help you remain compliant.

Tip 1: Federal and state guidelines must be followed in order to remain compliant with California’s medical waste disposal processes. In many cases, state guidelines are more stringent in scope and context than federal regulations. Healthcare providers should be familiar with (read and review) guidelines provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as well.

Tip 2: A number of agencies are involved in biomedical waste disposal in San Diego and surrounding communities. One of those agencies is the California Department of Transportation. This department requires specificity in the transportation of medical waste, how it’s labeled, and where it can end up. Reduce risk of noncompliance and fines by knowing and understanding guidelines for transportation of medical waste generator shipments off-site.


Tip 3: All healthcare or medical waste generators of any type of medical waste, and that includes biomedical waste, should also know the requirements based on the amount or volume of waste generated by your facility. Are you a large or small quantity generator? (You can find the answer in the California Medical Waste Management Act, Chapters 4 and 5). Be aware of consolidation regulations and the requirements of each. Based on the Act, medical waste generators in California are considered a small quantity generator or SQG if they produce less than 200 pounds of medical waste per month. A large quantity generator (LQG) is defined as one that generates 200 pounds or more per month.


Tip 4: Find specific guidelines regarding how to contain and store medical waste in Chapter 9 of the California Medical Waste Management Act, which also addresses a number of additional topics including:

  • Section 118275 (Medical waste segregation and storage)
  • Section 118285 (Sharps waste)
  • Section 118280 (Containment and storage processes)


Tip 5: Be informed of California’s requirements for healthcare waste storage. For example, sharps waste must be contained in a sharps container. Medical waste streams should be segregated and contained separately from other types of waste. Storing medical waste requires proper waste receptacles and processes. For example, storage containers need to be closable. They need to be puncture resistant and leak-proof on all sides. Biomedical waste containers should be labeled with the words “Biohazardous waste” if it contains even potentially infectious or contaminated biomedical waste. Sharps containers must be labeled as “Sharps waste”.


Tip 6: In regard to storage, city of San Diego facilities that generate an excess of 20 pounds of sharps or other biohazardous or biomedical waste every month can only be stored on-site for up to seven days at a temperature of 32°F or over without the need to obtain prior written approval from enforcement agencies. A facility that generates less than 20 pounds of such waste on a monthly basis can store the waste on-site for up to 30 days if it remains at or above the 32°F. However, sharps waste or biohazardous waste that is stored on-site at or below 32°F can be held for up to 90 days without obtaining prior written approval from the enforcement agency. Keep in mind that local enforcement agencies have the right to require more frequent removal of waste if sharps waste or odors from biohazardous waste poses a nuisance.


Tip 7: in San Diego County, and throughout California, medical waste generators must register with their local enforcement agency, whether small or large. You will also be required to submit a medical waste management plan to your local medical waste enforcement agency.


Make sure you know the rules, inside and out. Reduce risk of non-compliance, fines, and damage to your reputation caused by improper healthcare waste disposal.
 



Daniels Health promotes compliance

Daniels Health says safety first for healthcare staff, patients, and visitors to medical facilities in San Diego and surrounding communities. We focus on providing products, resources, and educational tools to healthcare providers that reduces risk of injury or contamination. We make medical waste disposal processes easier, more cost-effective, and most importantly, sustainable. To learn more about our San Diego operations, click here. For more information about our products and solutions for all types of healthcare industry providers, contact us.

 

Header Style: 
Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content 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 for fun analogies to explain healthcare waste.