Written by Megan Chamberlain
16 Nov 2020

Importance of Hospital Waste Management

Every employee in every hospital around the country plays a role in hospital-based healthcare waste management. Different types of healthcare waste are generated by every department in a hospital, from the janitorial and housekeeping staff to surgical suites, infectious disease units, and so forth.

When it comes to the importance of hospital waste management there are a few things that should be initiated like healthcare waste segregation, an understanding of different healthcare waste stream sources, and regular healthcare waste audit procedures.

That’s why Sharpsmart takes the “inside the four walls” approach. We know that education is the key to awareness and proper healthcare waste segregation and disposal processes inside healthcare facilities. We want to work with you and your staff to ensure everyone feels confident in compliantly disposing of healthcare waste. We are a modern healthcare waste management partner providing modern solutions.

Although it’s not just about education, reducing the volume of medical waste going to landfills, instituting reusable containers, and developing point-of-use solutions. Compliance is key when it comes to the generation, storage and collection, and transportation and disposal of hospital waste.

 

Benefits of hospital waste management

Hospital waste management increases the safety of employees and reduces sharps injury potential, along with the costs of direct and indirect treatment as a result. It also reduces the risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens and reduces hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). The less a hospital employee has to handle medical waste, the better. 

Reported by the NHS alone, healthcare personnel experience over 100,000 needlestick and/or other sharps-related injuries every year. Today the focus is not only on minimising environmental waste but increasing healthcare worker safety.

We know it’s time-consuming to segregate waste and to find adequate storage spaces before a medical waste disposal company can “collect the trash”. Nevertheless, enhanced education and improved reporting procedures not only increases efficiency but ensures compliance with federal and state guidelines.

Among the most important issues when it comes to hospital waste management is proper training in waste segregation; equally important is the management of hazardous waste on-site. Do your employees know the difference between healthcare waste streams? We’re talking:

 

 

 

Do they know which types of hospital waste are recyclable? Sharpsmart emphasises the ‘fewer touches equals less risk’ approach. Do your hospital employees know how sharps waste is defined? Sharps don’t just reference needles (ISO standard 23907:2012), but include 

  • Empty ampoules
  • Razor blades
  • Scalpels
  • Suture needles
  • Butterflies
  • Culture slides and dishes

 

Bottom line: It is the generator’s legal responsibility to properly segregate and dispose of healthcare waste.

Shall we talk about money? Improper waste segregation costs hospitals tens of thousands of pounds a year – because some throw away a bulk of their waste into their biohazardous waste stream – even if it’s not biohazard waste. 

 

Following the waste streams

Hospitals must be able to follow the trail or waste stream of different types of healthcare waste. These waste streams should be controlled from the moment they’re generated to final treatment, also known as the cradle-to-grave process.

Hospitals need to have policies and procedures in place that regulate the handling and implementation of healthcare waste and the volume and type of waste generated. Just because something is “disposable” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be handled properly regarding segregation.

That’s where the waste audit comes in. Waste audits are an integral part of healthcare waste management and aid hospitals in determining the difference between clinical waste and non-clinical waste, as well as the proper segregation of waste streams.

 

Learn about our Auditsmart KPI Program

 

Every hospital should have a plan in place to deal with their medical waste. For example, hospitals around the country have implemented best-practices approaches to deal with medical waste. Some of the topics covered include:

 

  • Biomedical waste management
  • Solid waste management
  • Self-auditing for different medical waste streams

 

 

Proper waste segregation and disposal is the responsibility of the generator

Yes, we’ll say it again: the responsibility of healthcare waste processes belongs to the generator. Penalties and fines can be incurred even after healthcare waste leaves your hospital. Until its final disposition, it’s your responsibility. It’s also the law.

It’s important to note that approximately 15% of waste generated by most healthcare facilities is deemed hazardous, along with a few other types of healthcare waste such as clinical waste. However, even though that may seem like a small amount of waste generated by a facility, massive fines are incurred for non-compliance.

Fines amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for a hospital facility for non-compliance or improper handling, storage, or transportation of hospital medical waste still occur. Fines for violations accrue daily, per violation.

Avoid fines for failure to segregate medical waste properly. Be aware of waste handling laws, permits, and adequate healthcare waste disposal practices.

Sharpsmart can help you remain compliant. Our sustainable and efficient healthcare waste management solutions put the safety of employees and the environment first. Reduce sharps injury. Aim for the reduced carbon footprint. Pay attention to proper healthcare waste segregation and waste management. For information on how we can optimise your medical waste disposal practices and remain compliant with ever-changing federal and state guidelines - talk to us today.

 

 

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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Compliance and Digital Solutions Specialist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Sharpsmart Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to girl for all things compliance.