Written by Megan Chamberlain
11 Sep 2018

Medical Waste Audits: Everything You Need to Know

Audits are usually performed by independent auditors who examine, scrutinize, evaluate, and analyze your medical waste and current waste management system. 

This process, while seemingly daunting, is crucial for ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations in health systems. The question arises: Has your facility been adhering to the guidelines for proper waste segregation?

Who defines medical waste?

Before getting started, it’s important to know what the definition of medical waste is. Does it imply anatomical waste, chemo waste, and sharps container waste? Or just some of it? 

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." This may include, but is not limited to, used needles and syringes, body parts, samples and blood. 

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 flakeable."

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 stress about getting things right. You can be confident that we know the regulations for every state.

What is a waste audit?

For those of you asking yourself "what is a waste audit?," it refers to a systematic assessment process that identifies the types and quantities of waste generated by a healthcare facility. It involves examining how waste is handled, segregated, stored, and disposed of, ensuring adherence to regulatory guidelines in the realm of responsible healthcare.

For a comprehensive understanding, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides valuable resources on medical waste definitions and management standards. 

What's involved in medical waste audits?

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

  • Hospitals and healthcare institutions 
  • Doctors' offices
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Urgent care centers
  • Veterinary clinics


Purpose and Categories of Medical Waste Audits

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.

The types of medical waste are typically categorized as:

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


Types of issues addressed in medical waste audits

When performing a self-performed medical waste audit, specific issues are addressed:

  • Are sharps properly stored, transported and 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 labelling? 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).

Sustainability in Waste Management

In addition to determining proper segregation, a medical waste audit also identifies how much of that waste is recyclable. 

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

The Role of Waste Generators

Waste generators are responsible for adequate packaging, storage, containment, and transportation and disposal (through incineration,  recycling and so forth) of medical waste. The 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 or medical center, but outside as well.

Are you being compliant?

Compliance in waste audits isn't just a regulatory requirement; it’s a commitment to public safety and environmental responsibility. Not to mention, non-compliance can result in severe legal penalties, fines and environmental harm.

The Fear of Non-Compliance

You start questioning yourself – 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)? Each error can result in hefty fines and black marks on your reputation in the healthcare sector.

The Value of Regular Waste Audits

Surprisingly, waste audits are not always an inconvenience, especially when performed by your facility on a regular basis. Performing your own waste audits facilitates improved medical waste segregation, keeping you in compliance, which reduces the risk of fines.

How medical waste audits work

Conducting a healthcare waste audit is a systematic process that ensures compliance with regulations and optimizes waste management practices in healthcare facilities. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key steps involved:

1. Pre-Audit Preparation

This initial stage is fundamental to the success of the waste audit. It requires a thorough understanding of the current waste management within the facility. This involves not only a systematic review of existing policies and procedures but also an analysis of the legal framework governing regulated medical waste.

Facilities must gather detailed information on the types and quantities of waste generated, current disposal methods, and the roles and responsibilities of staff involved in waste management. It's important to stay informed about the latest standards and guidelines set by relevant state authorities, to ensure that the audit aligns with specific regulatory requirements for your area.

2. Waste Generation Assessment

Identifying the relevant waste categories is a critical step in a healthcare waste audit. This involves categorizing waste into different streams such as general medical waste, biohazardous waste, and regulated medical waste.

Detailed classification of waste helps in the measurement of waste generated and pinpointing the major categories of waste within the facility. This aspect of the systematic review is vital for understanding the full scope of waste management challenges and opportunities for improvement.

3. Waste Segregation and Handling

Evaluating current waste segregation and handling practices is essential in determining the effectiveness of a facility's waste management strategy. This part of the hospital waste audit involves assessing how waste is separated at the point of generation and how it is collected, stored, and transported within the facility.

Proper segregation is critical in reducing the risk of contamination and ensuring the safety of healthcare personnel and patients. It also plays a significant role in identifying opportunities for the disposal of waste. For example, an audit may identify opportunities for recycling and reducing the amounts of waste that ends up in landfills.

4. Disposal and Treatment

This involves examining how different types of waste, particularly regulated medical waste, are treated and disposed of. This step assesses the compliance of these practices with state and federal regulations. The goal is to ensure that disposal practices adhere to the highest standards of environmental protection and public safety.

5. Reporting and Analysis

Usually, the final step in a healthcare waste audit involves documenting the findings and analyzing the data collected. This comprehensive report should provide a clear overview of the current state of waste management practices and identify areas that require improvement.

The analysis might include recommendations for enhancing the segregation of waste, reducing waste generation, and optimizing disposal methods. This report is crucial for developing a strategic plan to improve waste management practices in the facility.


Incorrect classification causes more waste to go to landfills — take the time to learn your waste streams and get the process right. 

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 health care 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?


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 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.

Discover why Daniels Health is a game-changer in healthcare waste audits

A medical waste disposal company like Daniels Health is a game-changer when it comes to the successful implementation of healthcare waste audits. It's also worth noting that our role extends far beyond mere waste collection and disposal. We offer comprehensive solutions for hospital waste audits, ensuring that medical facilities stay compliant and environmentally responsible. 

As experts in the field, we offer invaluable insights and comprehensive solutions that are invaluable in conducting detailed and effective waste audits. Daniels Health specializes in a range of services that are essential for any healthcare waste audit.

Providing extensive educational resources to healthcare facilities

The right education is crucial for understanding the complexities of regulated medical waste and the nuances involved in its disposal. By educating healthcare professionals on the types of waste and the risks associated with them, Daniels Health ensures that facilities are well-prepared to conduct their own hospital waste audits efficiently.

Ensuring federal and state compliance

Daniels Health assists in developing audit protocols that align with both state and federal regulations, as well as promoting environmental sustainability. This ensures that the healthcare waste audit is not only thorough, but also compliant with all legal requirements.

Our deep understanding of the regulations surrounding regulated medical waste makes us an invaluable partner in navigating the often complex legal landscape.

Innovation at our core

Our medical waste disposal company provides cutting-edge tools and technology designed to streamline the audit process and provide quality waste management and research. These tools include specialized waste containers, segregation systems, and tracking technologies that facilitate the accurate identification, segregation, and disposal of different types of medical waste, while meeting sustainability goals.

By incorporating these advanced solutions and identifying each contributor of waste, medical facilities can conduct more efficient and precise waste audits. This reduces the risk of non-compliance and negative environmental impacts, and enhances safe management practices.

Get started with waste audits in healthcare - reach out to Daniels Health today!

Conducting regular waste audits is an absolute must for any healthcare facility. It ensures compliance, optimizes waste management, and contributes to a safer, more sustainable environment - ideally reducing carbon emissions/greenhouse gas emissions. By leveraging our expertise in medical waste disposal, facilities can achieve these goals effectively and efficiently.

Get in touch today for a better tomorrow!


Header Style: 
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.