Guide to Virginia Medical Waste Regulations
Do you work in any health-related field in the state of Virginia? If the answer is yes, you need to know about Virginia’s medical waste regulations. Why? Because it can cost you a bundle if you’re found to be noncompliant with federal and state guidelines when it comes to segregation, collection, transportation and disposal of regulated and non-regulated medical waste in the Old Dominion.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is very specific about management of regulated medical waste. The Virginia Waste Management Board also provides very specific guidelines regarding hazardous waste and other types of medical waste. Additional guidelines are found in the Virginia Administrative Code.
Why mention all this? Because the “I didn’t know” excuse doesn’t go far with regulatory agencies when inspections or even a casual glance exposes noncompliance.
Every state in the US must follow federal guidelines in regard to medical waste management. Most of those guidelines can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. In addition, every state also mandates its own guidelines for medical waste disposal, and often, the state laws are even more rigorous than federal guidelines.
It’s important for veterinarians, dentists, doctors - any type of facility where medical procedures, testing, or surgeries are performed - to know and understand how Virginia defines regulated medical waste, how to manage it, transport it, and dispose of it.
Important Virginia definitions
Specificity is key when it comes to definitions found in any state administrative code regarding medical waste. Again, the “I didn’t know” excuse won’t fly when with a couple of mouse clicks, any healthcare or layperson in the state of Virginia can access the states codes, specifications, and instructions for waste segregation, storage, and treatment. These rules apply to every waste stream generated by a medical facility, from the local veterinarian’s office to the dental complex, to outpatient centers, clinics, dialysis centers, and hospitals.
How does Virginia define regulated medical waste? Solid waste is considered regulated medical waste if it’s capable of causing an infectious disease in humans. Such examples of regulated medical waste include but are not limited to:
- Sharps - which don’t just apply to needles, but syringes or anything with a sharp edge to it, such as staples and scalpels
- Anything contaminated with human blood and/or body fluids
- Tissue and anatomical waste
- Cultures or stocks of biologicals and microorganisms
- Any waste, bedding, body parts of or an animal carcass known to be infected with human pathogens
- Anything contaminated with residues of a cleaned up or spilled regulated medical waste
- Any type of solid waste potentially contaminated or combined with something contaminated with regulated medical waste
Proper standards and observance of medical waste streams and segregation is essential in avoiding noncompliance issues such as throwing all the trash in one bag - even if it’s a red one.
Guidelines found on the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center website - Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance information for the healthcare industry will find an easy-to-read and simply classified overview of Virginia’s medical waste regulations that include:
- Management - including permit requirements
- Packaging and labeling
- Information about reusable containers
- Containment and cleanup procedures
- Treatment and disposal guidelines
To be even safer, take the time to review Virginia’s waste regulations found in Chapter 120 of the Virginia Administrative Code or VAC. Go ahead. It may look like dry reading material, but it’s very important. For example, 9VAC20-170-10 specifies definitions and program administration under Title 9 (Environment), Agency 20 (Virginia’s Waste Management Board). Basically, Title 9 covers environmental issues.
Regulations, statutes, laws, and guidelines for any waste-producing generator are found in Virginia’s Administrative Code, specifically the Virginia Waste Management Board. This, like the state statutes and guidelines, is broken down into chapters. For example:
- Chapter 20 specifies schedules of fees for hazardous waste facility site certification
- Chapter 60 provides information regarding Virginia’s hazardous waste management regulations
- Chapter 81 defines solid waste management regulations
- Chapter 120 defines regulated medical waste management regulations
Breaking it down even further, Virginia’s Administrative Code, Chapter 20 covers numerous sections of protocols for regulated medical waste management. It covers recycled materials, exemptions, and exclusions. You’ll find an entire section devoted to sharps (§ 240), but it doesn’t stop there. There’s yet another statute that must also be followed: 9VAC20-120-240. This law regarding sharps specifies: “Sharps must be placed directly into puncture resistant containers as required by the general industry standards in 16VAC25-90-1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A). What does that one say? That specific law is a federal guideline for sharps containment, collection, and disposal found under 29 CFR 1910.
These guidelines may prompt some rolling eyes, but rest assured that Daniels Health knows this stuff. States must adhere to federal guidelines, and in many cases, state guidelines refer the reader to federal guidelines for regulated waste management standards and regulations. Researching some of these regulations sounds like a lot of reading. It is. But it’s also the responsibility of every waste generator to know these rules. Again, the “I didn’t know” is not an acceptable excuse for noncompliance.
Daniels Health knows rules and regulations, guidelines, statutes, and often convoluted and confusing combinations of state and federal guidelines. Including those of Virginia. We know about and pay attention to the details.
Don’t overlook the details
Some of the rulings found under state and federal guidelines are very detailed. For example, did you know that in Virginia, regulated medical waste that is stored longer than seven days must be refrigerated and kept in temperature ranging 35° to 45°F? Or that a vehicle that’s parked during transportation for more than 24 hours is considered a storage facility? We do.
A number of federal agencies also mandate their own guidelines regarding the collection, storage, transportation, and disposal of medical waste. Just a few additional regulatory agencies include:
- Department of Transportation
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- US centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- US Food and Drug Administration
- US Drug Enforcement Administration
It’s not just about how you collect and store medical waste. It’s also about how it’s transported and disposed of. Whoever you hire to deal with medical waste disposal or medical waste removal must also be in compliance. If they’re not, guess who’s responsible? You - the medical waste generator.
Each of these agencies regulates medical waste to ensure safety and they require specific guidelines for medical waste containment. When it comes to your medical waste removal, waste stream segregation, waste audits, or sharps container placement, Daniels Health knows the rules. Don’t get fined or penalized because “you didn’t know”.