Written by Megan Chamberlain
11 Sep 2018

What you Need to Know about Medical Waste Audits

Audits. The very word is enough to make you cringe. Picture it: an official inspection. Usually performed by independent auditors that make their way through your facility, examining, scrutinizing, evaluating, and analyzing your medical waste. The horror. You automatically feel defensive — how dare they?! 

Have you been following guidelines for proper waste segregation – based on federal and state regulations?

 

Are you being compliant?

You start questioning yourself — oh no, how many errors have you made? Are you confident you know what you’re doing? Will you face the ramifications of noncompliance, of poorly managed hazardous waste disposal, improper removal of pharmaceuticals, or inadequate storage of a waste stream (or numerous waste streams)? Existential crisis sets in as you realize each error results in hefty fines and black marks on your reputation.

Surprisingly, waste audits are not always an inconvenience, especially when performed by your facility on a regular basis. Get ahead of the jump by being prepared. Performing your own waste audits facilitates improved medical waste segregation, keeping you in compliance, which reduces the risk of fines. Much like studying for a final in college, everything goes much better if you take the time to study and prepare.

First things first. What exactly is the definition of medical waste? Does it imply anatomical waste, chemo waste, and sharps container waste? Or just some of it?

 

Who defines medical waste?

State regulations can differ in regard to medical waste definitions found in legislation. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines medical waste as "any solid waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines medical waste as "red bag/infectious waste containing blood or bodily fluids that are: pourable, drinkable, squeezable, or flakeble."

Every healthcare generator needs to be aware of specific state guidelines when it comes to medical waste management. With Daniels Health on board, you don't have to wrack your brain trying to keep it all straight. We know the lingo and the regulations for every state. We got this.

Alright, are you ready for a medical waste audit — like, right now. Nope? Well buckle up, buttercup. 

 

What's involved in a medical waste audit?

Medical waste audits are executed in any healthcare facility regardless of size — small generator, medium generator, and large generators. All generator sizes are fair game to the auditor:   

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors' offices
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Urgent care centers
  • Veterinary clinics

 

Any facility that produces medical waste of any kind has the potential to be audited by local, state, or federal government representatives. The primary purpose of a medical waste audit is to determine adequacy in separating or segregating medical waste streams. Categories of medical waste are typically categorized as:

  • General medical waste
  • Biohazard waste
  • Infectious waste
  • Radioactive medical waste

 

In addition to determining proper segregation, a medical waste audit also identifies how much of that waste is recyclable. How much does the facility generate? How much is discarded into landfills? 

Waste audits focus on minimizing the volume of waste going to landfills, minimizing hazards such as sharps injury reduction for healthcare employees and CO2 emissions reduction.

We at Daniels Health care about sustainability and sincerely hope you do too.

California's Department of Health Services Hospital pollution prevention strategies promotes activities that:

  • prevent generation of waste
  • reduce waste generation
  • reuse waste that has been generated
  • recycle waste

 

Waste generators are responsible for adequate packaging, storage, containment, and transportation and disposal (through incineration and so forth, or recycling) of medical waste. Potential to recycle or reuse depends on the waste stream. For this reason, generators of any size should take advantage of medical waste audits to properly identify and segregate regulated medical waste from other facility-generated solid wastes at the point of origin. This segregation and auditing also improves safer handling and transportation of such waste not only inside the four walls of the facility, but outside as well.
 

Incorrect classification causes more waste to go to landfills — take the time to learn your waste streams and get the process right. Don’t be lazy. You’re better than that.

With decades of experience in the field, Daniels Health understands the importance of auditing and oversight processes that ensure compliance and safety to employees and the environment. Medical waste audits focus on specific behaviors, protocols, and practices within a healthcare facility. When performing waste audits, Daniels Health also focuses on minimizing "touch" aspects, meaning the number of times an individual comes into contact with waste or waste receptacles. We specialize in innovative, reusable, no-touch medical waste solutions. With our experience, we also know that healthcare facilities want effective, sustainable, labor efficient, and compliant processes for waste segregation and minimization.

Are you up to date with the latest amendments and regulations that began with the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA), formed in the late 1980s? Today, state governments are largely responsible for the regulation of medical waste based on these regulations.

Are you following your state guidelines?

 

Types of issues addressed in medical waste audits

Among the most important issues when it comes to medical waste is how it's stored, transported, and disposed of. A handful of federal and state governmental agencies provide specific legislative guidelines for the treatment of various types of medical waste. When performing a self-performed medical waste audit, specific issues are addressed:

  • Are sharps properly disposed of? Are you following guidelines for safe and effective sharps container placement? Does this placement help ensure sharps injury reduction and reduce the risk of needlestick injury?
  • Are medical waste containers clearly marked or identified for specific waste streams based on color or adequately sized labeling and do those containers provide the generator's name and address, and identifications of contents?

Most states have defined compliance audit checklists. For example, California's environmental compliance audit checklist contains sections focusing on compliance, records, accumulation of hazardous waste segregation and handling, and recycling.

The CDC also provides an example of a self-inspection checklist of regulated medical waste as defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

 

Did we make you think? 
The importance of healthcare waste management, segregation, and disposal is not to be ignored. Daniels Health’s innovations promote safety and sustainability when it comes to healthcare waste solutions for all medical waste streams. Take advantage of the latest in research, products, and solutions that ensure compliance and optimize your waste streams - saving money and ensuring the safety of your employees and local environment. Don’t believe us? check out the white papers. Our solutions have been developed with clinician feedback in mind and backed by science. We did our homework, did you?

 

Header Style: 
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.