Guide to Nevada Medical Waste Regulations
When people think of Nevada, it’s common to think only of Las Vegas and Reno, two of the most popular gambling meccas not only in the United States, but around the world. Outside of those two major metropolitan areas however, the state of Nevada is relatively sparsely populated. Even so, medical care facilities, hospitals, and outpatient surgical centers are found throughout the state, from Battle Mountain to Fallon to Reno and Las Vegas, providing care not only for the residents of the state, but visitors and vacationers.
Healthcare providers in Nevada produce a number of medical waste streams, and some must be handled with special care and consideration, such as infectious or biohazard waste, and forms of hazardous waste. Such waste can be generated by anyone from a veterinary clinic, to a doctors office, or a dental facility. Knowing the regulations for waste management is vital.
While untreated medical waste can be disposed of in appropriately operated municipal waste landfills in the state of Nevada, there are health risks associated with such waste, especially for individuals exposed to it.
Nevada regulations don’t specifically require treatment of medical waste, but until medical waste has either been treated or disposed of, standards for storage and collection must adhere to the requirements of Nevada’s administrative codes. Because of a lack of comprehensive federal regulatory programs in Nevada for the management of medical waste, regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been adopted in the state in an effort to limit healthcare employees’ occupational exposure to potentially infectious and bloodborne pathogens.
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Who Makes the Rules for Medical Waste Management?
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is the primary source of information regarding rules and regulations for special waste management. The state has adopted the definition for regulated medical waste found in the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR part 173). That particular section refers to shippers and general requirements for shipments and packaging of medical waste transported off-site.
Other rules for medical waste management can be found in Nevada’s Administrative Code in sections 444.646 and 444.662.
It’s important for any medical waste generator in Nevada to find and understand the definitions and standards relevant to the field. Finding details in the myriad of laws and regulations of the state can be time-consuming and often frustrating. For example, after searching regulations for medical waste generators that are referred to in Chapter 459 of Nevada’s revised statutes (hazardous materials), it may seem that at first glance to focus solely on radioactive and nuclear waste. When looking for the definition of hazardous waste, you will eventually come to 459.430, which states that hazardous waste “means any waste or combination of waste including, without limitation, solids, semi solids, liquids or contained gases, except household waste” that has physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics that may cause serious, irreversible, or other capacity to cause illness or mortality, as well as pose substantial hazards to human health, public safety, or the environment if improperly stored, treated, or disposed of.
The state of Nevada defines management of hazardous waste as “the systematic control of the generation, collection, storage, transportation, processing, treatment, recovery, and disposal of hazardous waste.” (NRS 459.435)
Storage of Medical Waste
Nevada has a number of specific requirements applicable to the storage, collection, labeling, transportation, and disposal of regulated medical waste. However, because of the vastness of rural land in Nevada, regulations do allow for the direct disposal by landfilling of untreated medical waste. Even so, every medical waste generator should ensure that hospital or medical waste be properly disinfected or sterilized prior to such disposal.
For example, Nevada’s Administrative Code, Section 444.662 (storage of solid wastes before collection) states that “Medical waste must be stored in watertight, tightly covered, and clearly labeled containers that are resistant to corrosion and are in a safe location, inaccessible to the public. In addition, medical wastes must be stored in cleanable containers with liners approved by the solid waste management authority… medical wastes must be transported separately from other solid wastes to an approved disposal site and handled in accordance with the method approved by the solid waste management authority.”
Treatment and Disposal Methods
In Nevada, any medical waste that has been previously treated through autoclaving, incineration, or other approved alternative methods by the solid waste management authority, can be managed as “ordinary” solid waste without special requirements.
Any facility that accepts medical waste for treatment must be a regulated disposal site (444.460). Because medical waste is defined as a solid waste (444.490), a variety of treatment technologies are acceptable, as long as they adhere to and have permits and requirements that adhere to section 444.676.
Section 444.662 states that "medical waste may be deposited at a disposal site only if provisions for such disposal are included in the operational plan and approved by the solid waste management authority."
This is why it’s important to read through statues. The information you’re looking for is often buried in the text.
Two of the most common treatment methods used in Nevada include autoclaving and incineration. In cases of incineration, facilities must adhere to federal regulations regarding emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. As a result, many medical waste incinerators throughout the state of Nevada have been decommissioned.
As a result, Nevada medical waste facilities utilize autoclaving under high pressure as an accepted method of waste treatment. A number of autoclaves found throughout counties in Nevada are able to handle all medical wastes generated in their service areas prior to disposal in municipal landfills.
Alternative treatment methods that are also approved by the state of Nevada include chemical decontamination and radiation, although owners and operators of such services must be able to demonstrate effectiveness and gain approval by the solid waste management authority prior to exempting the waste from common medical waste management standards.
Daniels Health Provides Support
Daniels Health, with decades of experience in medical and hazardous waste management and its processes, realizes that finding specific regulations and guidelines can be a frustrating endeavor. While some standards that apply to other more populated states don’t apply to Nevada, it’s vital to know and understand the current regulations to ensure compliance, to protect your health care employees as well as the public, and to reduce damage to the environment.
For help and guidance in navigating Nevada’s laws and regulations, or to learn more about our products, services, and resources to ensure compliance in your state, contact Daniels Health.