How to Manage Hospital Waste
According to a recent guide by the World Health Organization, the following are the specific areas to focus on when developing a management plan for your hospital’s waste.
Hospital waste handlers bear the responsibility of keeping waste tightly contained upon receipt. Unfortunately, awareness of the need for safety and caution among staff members who routinely handle hospital waste may decrease over time, increasing the possibility for contamination or injury. All staff members handling waste products should receive periodic reminders and refresher training that includes information on the techniques and risks associated with the handling of waste, procedures for dealing with spillages and other accidents and instructions on the use of protective clothing. Additionally, staff should be required to demonstrate the procedure of proper waste handling to confirm their compliance.
Specific locations for temporary waste storage should be designated within the hospital. Generally, plans for these areas are included in those for the design and construction of the facility. The areas must be completely enclosed and separate from supply rooms and food preparation areas. Waste must always be segregated into different fractions based on their potential hazard and disposal route. The segregation of waste items is the responsibility of the handler. When stored, waste should be monitored closely and removed in a timely manner. All waste containers should be clearly labeled and hazardous and non-hazardous wastes should never be mixed.
More hospitals are turning to waste treatment as an alternative to incineration, as incineration harbors the danger of chemical exposure. Choices of treatment technologies should be made in line with a clear knowledge of the waste to be managed and the goal to be achieved through treatment. If the technology is to be environmentally sound—a growing concern among health care providers—the waste should be able to be treated without creating other hazardous by-products.
There are five basic processes for the treatment of hazardous components in health-care waste, specifically, sharps, infectious and pathological wastes: thermal, chemical, irradiation, biological and mechanical.
Transporting hazardous medical waste should comply with national regulations, and with international agreements if wastes are shipped across an international frontier for treatment. As with storage, hazardous and non-hazardous waste should always be transported separately. Drivers of vehicles carrying waste should have appropriate training regarding regulations, waste classifications and risks, labeling and documentation, safe handling and emergency procedures. Drivers should also be declared medically fit to drive vehicles and are recommended to have vaccination against tetanus and hepatitis A and B.
Medical waste disposal firms are available to pick up waste that cannot be treated onsite. Waste is then treated and deposited in carefully designed and protected landfills. Additionally, mail-back disposal options exist in some areas, including the greater United States. In mail-back biomedical waste disposal, waste is shipped through the postal service instead of being transported by private companies. The mail-back service is limited to strict postal regulations involving collection and shipping containers that ensure safety during transport and delivery.