Written by Megan Chamberlain
26 Sep 2018

Common Medical Waste Violations

We all know how easy it is to cut corners, but when it comes to medical waste, you just can’t. Taking shortcuts in regards to medical waste can negatively impact patients, healthcare workers, the environment, and your wallet. Are you guilty of violating medical waste regulations?

Failing to adhere to federal and state regulations for healthcare waste management, hazardous waste disposal, or even healthcare waste segregation cannot only cost you tens of thousands of dollars per violation, per day, but put you on the EPA's "naughty list" for years to come - that means more frequent and intensified scrutiny. 

What are the most common medical waste violations? This is a basic question that everyone in healthcare should feel confident answering. Daniels Health knows these basics, and with a little planning and staff training and enforcement, you wouldn't have to worry about such violations.

 

The usual suspects: most common medical waste violations 

The lineup includes (but is certainly not limited to):

  • Improper healthcare waste segregation
  • Inadequate medical waste removal/medical waste disposal
  • Lack of proper training for staff
  • Failure to plan for proper segregation, removal, and disposal

 

Improper healthcare waste segregation can cost you big time. Are you putting biohazard waste where it belongs? Are you separating chemo waste from anatomical waste? Do you understand why that's important? There's a huge difference between biohazard waste and nonregulated or noninfectious waste generated by any healthcare facility, regardless of size.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is very specific in regard to the treatment and disposal of medical waste. Negligence of the rules can result in potential safety issues to employees as well as the public. Needlestick injury scenarios are among the most common inside or outside of a healthcare facility. Biohazard waste, such as that contaminated by blood or other body fluids, poses huge health risks not only to healthcare workers, but the public - especially when biohazard materials end up in landfills.

Daniels Health is committed to reducing the volume of medical waste going to landfills, as well as CO2 emissions reduction, reduced carbon footprint, and implementation of reusable containers to do just that.  You care about preserving the planet, don’t you?  It’s the only one we have for now afterall.

In addition to proper healthcare waste segregation, it's vital to follow the rules regarding medical waste disposal. Do you know which medical waste streams can be incinerated and which can't? Are you foggy on what a medical waste stream even is? Do you know whether your medical waste can undergo thermal treatment or steam sterilization? If you don't, it's time to find out.  Daniels has been an expert in this space for over 30 years – let us help.

Do you know how many federal and state governmental agencies have a say in hazardous waste disposal, waste segregation, or healthcare waste management? Take a look:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • State departments of Public Health and Environment
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • US Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • County and town ordinances

 

Each of these agencies is involved in not only protecting healthcare workers, but the public when it comes to healthcare waste. Employee safety is the focus of OSHA. Together with the EPA they readily make resources available to healthcare facilities for training in this area. Such training standards not only increase employee and patient safety, but reduce risk of infection, contamination, or spread of contaminants.

Labeling is important.  You wouldn’t want to mix up a chicken noodle soup with a clam chowder (gross).  Improper labeling on waste containers specifying which are hazardous and which are not is vital in the healthcare industry. State regulations require proper labeling on all medical waste containers. Failure to do so increases the risk of noncompliance resulting in staggering fines and penalties.

Are you familiar with every facet of your facility's medical waste removal processes? Do you know the name of the medical waste pickup companies you work with? Do you know who to contact at those companies? Are you in compliance with regulations? Are you focusing on reducing the amount of waste your facility generates? Do you even know how much waste your facility generates?

Those are a lot of questions – do you have the answers?  I hope you do.

 

The severity of fines and penalties 

Improper medical waste disposal is a death blow to your budget. One facility in the recent past was fined $70,000 per day for labeling errors. Think we're making this up? Check out the criminal provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery act (RCRA) found on the EPA website. For example, storing, treating, or disposing of medical waste without a permit can cost up to $50,000 per day, and that's just for one violation (regulation 40 C.F.R. 260 – 265). Transportation of hazardous waste without a manifest also cost $50,000 per violation, per day, and penalties will double for "subsequent corrections". (Statute 42 U.S.C. 6928 (d) (5).

 

Shall we go on?

Be aware that improper disposal, storage, treatment, or transportation of hazardous waste, and knowing that such actions can puts others at the risk of imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury results in not only a potential prison sentence of 15 years, but an organization can pay anywhere from $250,000-$1 million in fines. (40 C.F.R. 260-265). Browse through the Code of Federal Regulations Title 40 (Protection of Environment) to determine the scope of these regulations.

Daniels Health knows the rules; let us help you play by them. Why risk violations? Not only do such violations damage your reputation, but can affect your ability to do business and provide care. We understand that the numerous regulations from various governmental agencies can be convoluted, confusing, and downright frustrating, but we can help you navigate through them. Don't risk your reputation by trying to take shortcuts – be the tortoise instead of the hare.

 

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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.