Written by Megan Chamberlain
15 Nov 2018

Guide to Kentucky Medical Waste Regulations

Most agree that you’ll find few things less boring than reviewing regulations. However, when it comes to medical waste, the devil is in the details. The same applies to rules, guidelines, and regulations for segregation, treatment, and disposal of medical waste in Kentucky.


When dealing with healthcare waste segregation or medical waste disposal, you’re not dealing with just one agency. The industry involves federal, state, county, and in some cases, specific city ordinances.

In Kentucky, a number of state agencies – in addition to federal agencies –provide regulatory guidelines when it comes to any type of medical waste. They include:

  • Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection – Division of Waste Management
  • Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection – Division for Air-Quality
  • Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services - Office of Inspector General
  • Kentucky Department for Public Health
  • Kentucky Labor Cabinet
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet


Because at least six state agencies are involved in medical waste regulation guidelines for the Bluegrass state, it can be difficult, time-consuming, and more than a little frustrating trying to find detailed information about specific types of medical waste.

For example, methodologies, processes, or techniques specifically designed to remove pathogens from any potentially infectious waste falls under the purview of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. These guidelines apply to any public health facility, nursing homes, and hospitals, who are required by the state to treat medical waste either on or off site. Each comes with its own set of rules.

Finding those rules for different waste stream handling is daunting. We know. Been there, done that. Let’s put it this way – some states have clear, explicit, and detailed information on how to segregate, store, label and dispose of various medical waste streams. Kentucky isn’t one of them. The information is there, you just have to dig for it.

Moving on. The handling, storage, and labeling of medical waste in any healthcare workplace environment in the state falls under the guidelines of Kentucky’s Safety and Health Program. When it comes to sharps management and sharps container placement specifications, or those of medical waste bags and containers, guidelines are found under the Kentucky Labor Cabinet regulations. These guidelines also cover employee training for handling of various types of medical waste.

In Kentucky, hospitals, public health facilities and nursing homes are required to segregate infectious waste as well as sharps from other waste. Such waste is then to be incinerated or else rendered non-hazardous before it’s transported to a disposal facility. A number of landfills in Kentucky are deemed sanitary and don’t accept medical waste unless such waste has been previously treated at a medical waste transfer station. There are guidelines for that too.

Yes, we are perfectly aware that wading through dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of pages of regulations, guidelines, and protocols in regard to healthcare waste management, hazardous waste disposal, or defining the different categories of medical waste - like anatomical waste, biohazard waste, chemotherapy waste, or pathological waste - is time consuming. Nevertheless, knowing the rules is important in order to avoid not only fines and penalties, but to avoid damaging the environment or endangering public health and wellness.


A brief glimpse at some regulations in Kentucky

In addition to federal guidelines provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as the FDA, and DEA agencies, Kentucky’s departments and state agencies also provide their own take on general requirements when it comes to medical waste disposal.

It’s also important to be aware of who does what. For example, Kentucky’s Department for Environmental Protection Division of Waste Management establishes specific requirements for permits identifying solid waste facilities (and different types of waste) that may be acceptable at certain landfills (401 KAR 47:080).

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Office of Inspector General proposes guidelines for segregation of sharps and which wastes can be incinerated or rendered non-hazardous prior to disposal.

Specific laws are accessible from Kentucky’s Administrative Regulations (KAR) – dozens of legislative regulations are found under general categories and require some (okay, a lot of) digging to wade through for specifics. That’s what we do. Daniels Health provides support and solutions for any healthcare facility, whether it’s a veterinary clinic, a dental office, a cancer treatment center, or hospital, when it comes to finding and clarifying the many regulations that involve healthcare waste segregation, understanding waste stream identification and management, as well as waste audit methodologies that prove beneficial not only for safety of employees, but long-term waste management systems.

Do you know how to deal with biohazard waste disposal in Kentucky? In this state, waste disposal regulations fall under the purview of the Department of Environmental Protection - Division of Waste Management. However, the state itself doesn’t have specific guidelines regarding segregation, treatment, and disposal of medical waste - other than air quality regulations for incineration of medical waste. Does that leave you off the hook? Not at all.

How does Kentucky define medical waste? In this state, it’s any kind of waste that has the potential to contaminate by blood or bodily fluids or infectious materials. Kentucky follows guidelines outlined by the EPA in regard to storage and disposal, but local as well as state laws are responsible for setting guidelines for the majority of medical waste in the state.

Healthcare facilities in Kentucky should be aware that numerous agencies and regulations share jurisdiction when it comes to biohazard waste disposal, healthcare waste segregation guidelines, medical waste removal, or medical waste disposal.

In Kentucky, finding definitive regulations that meet so many different medical waste scenarios is time-consuming. And confusing.


Wading through challenging guidelines

As mentioned, Kentucky doesn’t have a specific document or organized and easy-to-find set of published documents or regulations regarding the storage, disposal, or treatment of medical waste. The focus in Kentucky is on incineration and its effect on air quality. As such, special permission and permits prior to incinerating medical waste are required.

Does this mean that Kentucky doesn’t expect proper handling, segregation, storage, labeling and disposal of any type of medical waste? No. As with other states with vague or ambiguous guidelines for medical waste disposal, federal standards provided by the EPA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act should be followed.

Daniels Health is experienced, knowledgeable, and committed to the prevention of needlestick injuries, promoting safe medical waste handling and storage regulations, and proper medical waste segregation and disposal. We’re dedicated to protecting the environment and provide guidelines for facilities heading toward reduced carbon footprint, CO2 emissions reduction, and reducing sharps injury through the use of reusable containers. For more information about Daniels Health and what we can do for you, give us a call today.

If you would like further help navigating Kentucky's medical waste regulations, call one of our clinical experts today! Alternatively find out more about our Kentucky operations and service capabilities on our Kentucky service page here


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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content Strategist

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.