The Complete Guide to Biohazardous Waste Disposal

The Complete Guide to Biohazardous Waste Disposal

All types of medical waste come with their own set of challenges and dangers, but out of all of the categories that we work with, the one that requires the most attention is biohazardous waste. Unlike other categories such as sharps or medications, it doesn’t require a person to come in direct contact with it to be dangerous, and, to make matters worse, it can quickly spread from person to person. This unique set of dangers has lead to rules that are far more stringent than any other type of waste. In this complete guide to biohazardous waste disposal, we will cover the definition, dangers, and different categories of this waste, as well as some proper handling and disposal procedures. The severity of the situation requires working with a trusted and experienced company to minimize risks to personnel and the public at large.

What is biohazardous waste?

The definition of biohazardous waste is exactly how it sounds: any medical waste that has been contaminated by a biological agent that could be dangerous to humans, plants, or animals. Examples of biological agents include:

● Bacteria
● Funghi
● Human or animal cells
● Viruses
● Or mold

The most common places for this type of waste to be generated is in laboratories, operating rooms, autopsy rooms, or patient care facilities.

The different categories of biohazardous waste

This type of waste is separated into four different categories based on the physical form. Due to the risks and complexity, each category needs to be separated completely and dealt with in a different manner. It’s important to know that no matter which category you are dealing with, it must always be attended to and secured, especially if it is in any way accessible to the public(for example, in a hospital hallway). The categories are as follows:

Solid(non-sharp)– solid biohazardous waste is any waste contaminated with human or animal biomaterial that doesn’t fall into the sharps category. Examples of this are gloves, towels, vials of blood, all culture/sample containers, and anything else that has come in contact with biomaterial. This kind category must be collected in a leak-proof container that is lined with an autoclave bag thick enough to prevent puncturing. The container must be sealable, that is, it must have a lid or some other means of closure to prevent spillage or to stop untrained hands from reaching in(such as from children). It is recommended to dispose of your smaller containers into larger collection bins on a daily basis. Using a professional biohazardous waste disposal contractor is also highly recommended.

● Liquid– liquid biohazardous waste is exactly what it sounds like. This category contains human and animal blood, blood products, and body fluids(this is usually from human and animal research). It’s important to note that small quantities contained in primary containers(less than 25 ml’s) can be managed and disposed of as solid waste. All liquids must be stored in leak-proof containers, and secondary containment is highly recommended. If you do opt for secondary containment, then the second container must also be labeled with the biohazard sticker.

Sharps– biohazardous sharps are perhaps the most common category of waste. This category is made up of any device sharp enough to puncture the human skin that has been contaminated by a biological agent that is an infectious disease risk. Examples are needles, syringes, lancets, scalpels, pipettes, microscope slides, and broken tubes. You must use a specifically designed container that is puncture resistant, leakproof, has a restricted opening(designed for better containment and protection), and is clearly marked. They all must be disposed of immediately after use. Never overfill the container. It is highly recommended to use a professional contractor for disposal.

Pathological waste– biohazardous pathological waste is the most rare, but is still common in hospitals and research labs. Pathological waste could be human and animal body parts(except for teeth), organs, or tissue. This type of waste must be double bagged, clearly marked as biohazardous, and placed securely out of the way in a manner that minimizes the risk of leakage.

The importance of communication and training

OSHA estimates that the number of employees in the healthcare industry directly at risk of illness from bloodborne pathogens at 5.6 million, and that estimate was taken some time ago(it is likely much higher now). Regulated waste directly puts millions of people at risk, but the real danger is how communicable the diseases are. This means that literally tens of millions more are at risk of the spread of disease. Strict regulations in the industry have helped wipe out many of the widespread illnesses that plagued us not too long ago to the point that large outbreaks of diseases are practically unheard of. It is important to communicate the dangers to your employees and train them properly. Here are a few answers to important questions:

Do I always have to label waste?– it’s a good rule of thumb to always label waste as biohazardous. If it contains regulated waste, has acted as storage for regulated waste(such as a refrigerator), or contains something exposed to regulated waste(such as a laundry bag), then it must be labeled with a biohazardous sticker. Also, any equipment that is contaminated must be labeled as so with extra information provided as to which part has been contaminated.

When don’t I have to label?– there are a few exceptions to the labeling protocol. For example, if you’ve decontaminated the waste on-site, if you have containers of blood marked by the FDA that’s been released for transfusion, containers of blood placed in secondary containers with labels, or if you’re using a red bag. It’s best to consult OSHA standards for all information.

Does everyone have to be trained? – yes, absolutely. Any of your employees that will be potentially put into harm’s way, whether full or part-time, must be properly trained.

This complete guide to biohazardous waste disposal is meant to educate you on the different categories, storage procedures, and recommendations for disposal. Remember, always consult government regulations when more information is needed, and always use a reputable medical waste disposal company to handle the difficult transportation and disposal responsibilities. It will help keep the public at large safe, and help keep you running at peak efficiency.

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