Written by Laura Wakelam
22 Oct 2021

10 Examples of Clinical Waste

If your facility produces any type of clinical waste, it is the duty of care of that facility to ensure that such waste causes no damage or harm to employees, transporters, or the general public during storage or transportation. Duty of care is applicable to not only the producer or holder of medical waste, but carriers as well as consignees who receive that waste for disposal or recycling. 


TOPICS WE WILL COVER:

1 / What is Clinical Waste?

2 / Identification of Clinical Wastes 

3 / Handling Clinical Waste 

4 / Duty of Care for Clinical Waste



What is Clinical Waste? 


Every employee that comes into contact with healthcare waste must be able to identify it as hazardous or non-hazardous. This is important not only in medical waste stream management, but for the safety of others as well as proper collection, storage, and disposal procedures. What exactly is clinical waste? 

Ten examples of clinical waste include (but are not limited to): 

  • Sharps waste – Sharps waste is anything that can cut, pierce, or stab the skin that has been potentially contaminated with infectious materials. This can include scalpels, needles, or broken vials.  
  • Pathological waste – Pathological waste and can include a waste material from a biopsy procedure where tissues or samples of tissues may be taken from humans or animals.  
  • Empty vaccine vials – Even empty vaccine vials might contain contents that may prove dangerous, especially if expired or contaminated with bacteria. 
  • Infectious waste – Infectious waste can include blood and blood products, personal protective equipment (PPE), cultures, laboratory agents, IV tubing – potentially anything that has come into contact with an infectious material. This also includes waste generated from the care of a patient diagnosed with any type of communicable disease. 
  • Microbial waste  This type of waste can include cultures, slides, specimens, or other microorganisms. 
  • Recombinant forms of DNA or RNA – Recombinant forms of RNA or DNA are considered biohazardous, as are pipets and associated equipment often used in labs. 
  • Liquid medical waste – Liquid medical waste contains infectious agents, bodily fluids, or specimen liquids. 
  • Contaminated laboratory tools – Potentially contaminated laboratory tools, items, or equipment can include but are not limited to cultures, Petri dishes, glass slides, and so forth. 
  • PPE – Any personal protective equipment or bedding, gauze, or materials that has come into contact with, saturated, or soaked with blood, bodily fluids, or other infectious materials. 
  • Animal waste – Like human pathological waste, animal waste is typically generated during animal care procedures, biopsies, or surgeries at a veterinary facility 
     

Additional and special requirements can apply to the healthcare waste that originates from a person or an animal who is suspected or is known to have an infection or disease that is likely to contain viable infectious agents or toxins. For example, determination of a potentially infectious waste can include: 

  • A waste that comes from a  patient with an infectious disease 
  • Wound infections 
  • Hygiene products from a patient diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, vomiting, or diarrhoea that is caused by a toxin or infectious agent 
  • Respiratory materials expunged from a patient with a respiratory infection, influenza, or open pulmonary tuberculosis 
     

Any object that is suspected of being contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or a viral component should also be properly segregated and carefully handled.  

Refer to the Environmental Protection Act as well as the Health Technical Memorandum 07-01: Safe Management of Healthcare Waste to ensure compliance with the numerous aspects involved in clinical waste management. Referring to Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act is very specific regarding duty of care in regard to producing, carrying, maintaining, treating, or disposing of controlled wastes. Compliance is key to avoid penalties. 



Identification of Clinical Wastes 


Every employee or worker of a facility, hospital, or medical centre that produces clinical waste must be able to identify it and maintain proper processes and procedures to ensure it is contained, isolated, and properly disposed of. Compliant use of containers or bins and storage of such waste is the foundation of safe medical waste management, and includes every employee from management, on-floor staff, and domestic and porter teams. 

Clinical waste and potentially infectious exposure is not limited to blood, a soiled gown, or a scalpel. It can also be any object, tool, or equipment that may have come into contact with an infected or contaminated patient or individual. Anything, from the moment patient care is initiated, has the potential to become clinical waste depending on the condition and diagnosis of the patient who may have been contaminated or come into contact with a dangerous pathogen. 

As such, clinical waste can be deadly. Terminology among facilities and regions can make little distinction between clinical, infectious, and biohazardous waste. It is important to train employees that clinical waste is defined as anything that might have been contaminated with an infectious or virulent material. 

Health and Safety Executive guidance on biosafety is essential for all healthcare providers or medical facilities regarding biological hazards in the workplace. The document offers guidance for safe working environments as well as prevention of infection in a clinical laboratory or similar facility as well as managing potential infection risks when handling deceased individuals. Proper handling of clinical waste reduces the risk of contamination and ensures that healthcare professionals, patients, and the environment are protected. 



Handling Clinical Waste 


Proper handling, containment, labelling, and storage of clinical waste prior to destruction or disposal is essential for safety. Assessment of infectious properties is an important step of the waste management process, from the point of origin or generation to its final disposition. For example, any discarded diagnostic sample or culture that is suspected of containing or contains a known microbial pathogen or their toxins should be labeled as H9: infectious. 

Proper procedures in regard to wearing of personal protective equipment including goggles, gloves, and gowns can help to reduce the risk of contamination during segregation processes. A medical device that has been in contact with an infectious bodily fluid should be disinfected. If that is not possible, it is to be treated and classified as an infectious waste. 

Colour-coding is highly recommended and is a minimal requirement to properly identify and segregate waste streams. Containers are to be labelled based on regulatory requirements for the packaging and transporting of waste and should identify the waste type. 

Anatomical waste should be placed in a red-lidded, rigid yellow container if it contains H9 hazardous properties. Infectious waste contaminated with chemicals or that is medicinally contaminated (as well as sharps) must be disposed in compliant and appropriately colour-coded bags, containers, or bins. Refer to the Health Technical Memorandum, Chapter 5 (waste minimisation, segregation, colour-coding, and storage processes). Some types of infectious waste may be incinerated through alternative and/or approved treatments. 

Infectious waste is typically identified by yellow stream or colour-coded bags, bins, and containers with red lids and is typically incinerated by a licensed and permitted facility.  



Duty of Care for Clinical Waste 


Responsibility for proper, safe, and compliant clinical waste management is on the waste generator. Knowing the laws is essential in maintaining compliance and reducing the risk of infection or contamination among healthcare providers and the general public due to improper or illegal disposal. Sharpsmart is dedicated to the protection of healthcare personnel and the environment caused by clinical waste. Our team can help with navigating the regulations as well as treatment and disposal requirements that are not only cost-effective and sustainable, but ensure protection and safety. For more information, contact Sharpsmart today.

 

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Laura Wakelam

Laura Wakelam

Chief Marketing Officer

Brand and Communications Curator of Sharpsmart global group of companies, Laura is a strong believer in cause-driven brand identity and honest storytelling