Containing Hazardous Waste: Finding A Strong Hold
Protect Workers From Medical Waste
What Is Considered Medical Waste
BY Ronnie Garrett
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How is You Handling Medical Waste at Your Facility in Olean, NY, 14760 – ACS Facilities Services
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This is the second of a four-part article on how to identify, reduce and dispose of infectious/medical waste.
Containers for infectious waste run the gamut from hard plastic to aluminum to wax-covered cardboard. Which container an operation selects largely depends on budget, but all must be labeled accordingly.
“We use wax-covered cardboard containers that have been appropriately marked by our vendor,” says Bates. “But I’ve seen other organizations use red plastic trash containers, as well. The important thing is that they be clearly marked with the designation for medical waste.”
Timothy Bowers, MT (ASCP), MS CIC, director of infection prevention and control at Inspira Health Network in New Jersey, recommends looking to the local Environmental Protection Agency and/or water authority to determine how this waste should be collected and handled.
“Sharps must be placed in puncture-proof containers, and soaked materials should be stored in a manner that prevents spillage and placed in a rigid/semi-rigid container before transport,” he says. “All containers should be labeled appropriately with the universal biohazard symbol and stored in a manner to keep the integrity of the container intact.”
He adds that the container should be able to survive what could be a rough trip to its final destination.
“Glass jars and plastic bags should not be the final container for infectious waste as breaking and tearing are a real concern,” says Bowers, member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology’s communications committee.
Regardless of which container is used, liners for infectious waste containers must be red. Some states have a standard pertaining to bag thickness, as well. For instance, West Virginia mandates that bags be 3 Mils thick or pass American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) drop test method, ASTM-D5276-98.
Attman says bags must meet tear and dart requirements, “tear being strength overall and dart being piercing strength, or how it holds its ability not to rip.” He reports that once upon a time the only way a bag could meet these requirements was if it was at least 3 Mil.
“These bags were really heavy-duty, thick bags,” he says. “They looked like battleships. They were almost indestructible.”
However, as new resins became available, manufacturers developed hexene materials that could meet tear and dart requirements without the thickness. Eventually super hexene material enabled bags to become even thinner.
“Bags keep getting thinner, which costs the organization less, because pricing is often based on weight,” says Attman.