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How to Prevent Medical Waste Spills

Nov 12, 2015

medical waste spill

Medical waste spills can occur at any point in the collection and disposal of medical waste. They can happen as the waste is being gathered, stored or transported to the disposal facility. At BWS, we think this is an important topic to address, because as a medical waste generator you are responsible for the waste until it’s incinerated, autoclaved, recycled, land-filled or otherwise disposed of in accordance with state and federal regulations. In the view of  several recent medical waste spills, we’d like to offer some information and tips in regard to preventing or minimizing the likelihood of spills in your facility.

Medical Waste Spills During Transportation

There were two similar medical waste spills that occurred recently—one in Little Rock, Arkansas and one closer to home in Bowie, Maryland. The Arkansas spill involved disposable gloves, bloody gauze, surgical masks and even used needles that fell off a dump truck and scattered around a residential neighborhood. The spill in Bowie consisted of IV tubes, personal protective equipment, as well as personal hygiene items scattered along the side of northbound Route 197. In both cases, it is known which medical facility the waste came from, and when it comes to Bowie, it is even suspected which Maryland waste removal company is responsible for the spill.

The lesson learned from these two cases is that you should carefully select who you hire to haul both your regulated and non-regulated medical waste. If your vendor makes a mistake and causes a spill, this also negatively reflects on you. In the Arkansas spill, it is also clear that the medical facility didn’t place sharps such as needles in an appropriate shutter-proof container, which may invite an investigation by the EPA or a local authority.

Medical Waste Spills During Storage

If your medical waste removal company picks up your medical waste once a week or even less frequently, you may need to designate a waste storage area. This will allow the collected waste to be placed out of the way, so that it doesn’t accidentally get bumped into by personnel or tempered with by staff or patients. Here are some basic tips to follow when selecting the storage area for your medical waste, as well as transporting the waste to the storage site:

  • Don’t allow the waste to accumulate where it is produced.
  • Make sure the collection personnel has easy access to the storage site.
  • Make sure the trolleys used to transport medical waste from the generation site to the storage site don’t have sharp edges or other design flaws that could damage bags or containers.
  • Make sure the storage site is not accessible to birds, rodents, animals and other pests.

Medical Waste Spills During Collection

When it comes to medical waste collection, the most important thing is to train your staff. They should know the different categories of waste, which containers should be used, how to label them, as well as what is required by state and federal regulations. Follow these tips and train your medical personnel to be responsible and careful when collecting medical waste.

  • Segregate the waste based on its category: sharp, liquid, infectious, hazardous, non-regulated, etc.
  • Provide medical waste containers as close to the waste generation site as possible.
  • Don’t attempt to re-sort the waste if something was accidentally dropped in a wrong container if it requires opening a container and digging through waste.
  • Never place sharps in bags that can be punctured.
  • Don’t overfill containers above the recommended capacity.
  • Close bags and containers tightly when full and ready for transport

If spills do occur at any point during the daily operations of your medical facility, address them fast. Train your staff on how to safely clean up medical waste spills, and make cleanup kits available. Different cleanup kits can be purchased depending on the nature of the spill, whether it’s chemical, biohazardous, heavy metal or something else.

If you have any other questions about using approved medical waste containers or contracting with a waste removal company, feel free to get in touch with our experts at BWS, Inc.

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