Medical waste management has become a problem for many healthcare providers. One of the biggest challenges is that clinical waste regulations are ever-changing and complex, making it difficult for organisations to stay on top of their duty of care obligations. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your organisation complies with regulations. This guide covers everything you should know about managing your medical waste.
What is Medical waste?
Spent medical waste is a byproduct of healthcare and laboratory operations. It is any waste containing blood, body fluids and tissues. Examples include
- Soiled dressings
- Needles, blades and other sharp items used for medical procedures
- Bloodied bandages or dressings
- Specimen containers for specimen collection, such as urine bottles and tubes containing blood samples.
Such medical waste may be infectious or non-infectious. Infectious medical wastes contain human blood or bodily fluids like faeces, vaginal secretions or semen. Non-infectious medical wastes include non-human animal products, such as used dental amalgam filings from the mouth cavity during dental procedures.
Clinical Waste Management and the Duty of Care
As a healthcare professional, you have a legal and moral duty to keep your workplace safe for staff and visitors. This is known as the ‘duty of care’. The task of care is a legal obligation that must be met by all businesses to ensure that they are safe places to work, visit or buy from. It includes things such as
- The level of risk associated with chemicals used in your workplace;
- How chemicals are stored and transported between locations;
- Elimination of any risks associated with using certain substances (for example, wearing gloves when handling blood).
Tips for Choosing Clinical Waste Bags
Clinical waste bags are used to carry and store medical waste before it is disposed of. A wide range of disposable bags is available in the market. The most important aspect to consider while choosing a medical waste bag is its durability. It should be strong enough to withstand tough conditions and protect against leaks, punctures and tears during transport. Avoid purchasing low-quality bags as they may not last long, especially when exposed to rough conditions such as being dropped on the floor or placed under heavy objects like heavy equipment or medical instruments for disposal in bins during transportation by means such as wheelchairs or ambulances.
What should be put in Medical waste bags?
Medical waste is any waste that has come into contact with patients. It’s usually a mixture of liquids and solids, including needles, tissues and bandages.
Medical waste bags are made from thick plastic or paper so they can be tied properly when full. They’re often red or yellow to make them easily identifiable (for example, by hospitals).
Here are some examples of what should go in your medical waste bag:
- Needles – If you use them on patients, you must dispose of them properly, as they can be dangerous if left lying around. Put them in a sharps bin immediately after use; tie the lid down tightly, so nothing escapes when transporting it from the treatment room.
- Tissues – These are also classed as medical items, but because their contents aren’t liquid, there’s no need for extra precautions like putting them inside special containers or bags.
- Bandages – These, too, should go straight in the bag once removed from their wrapper (it’s illegal to throw away packaging without being sure what’s inside). Once opened, any bandage must be disposed of within 24 hours, or there will be a risk of infection.
- Medical gloves – Cleaning up after using gloves is one thing everyone knows how to do correctly; put them back into their packet, then tie both securely together before placing them into an appropriate container.