Clinical waste can be dangerous and therefore it is essential that it is disposed of correctly. Managing this waste properly ensures that health activities do not pose an infection risk. Health providers need to consider the health and safety regulations surrounding clinical waste. They also need to follow environmental, waste and transport regulations.
Following these guidelines thoroughly is the only way to ensure that clinical waste is managed correctly.
Healthcare waste is defined as any waste that is produced after a healthcare procedure, which can be hazardous. The UK has introduced a number of regulations over the years to inform healthcare providers on how to manage this safely, protecting both the public and the environment. This legislation covers a range of issues, such as packaging and transport, treatment, and the health and safety of employees.
The Environmental Protection Act was a piece of legislation brought in in 1990. This act set out ways for waste to be managed that would control pollution to the land, water and air. It imposes a duty of care on all businesses who produce or dispose of waste, instructing them to do so safely. It also contains guidance on litter, statuary nuisances and the control of certain substances.
This act was brought in in 2012 to define certain types of waste. It classes any industrial, commercial or household waste as controlled waste. This means that they are subject to the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Waste which isn’t classed as controlled includes sewage and septic tank sludge.
The Hazardous Waste Regulations came into force in 2005 and set out guidelines for the control and tracking of hazardous waste. It deals with waste which is considered to pose a high risk to the environment or health and therefore needs to be handled or treated in a special way. Hazardous waste types are listed in the List of Waste Regulations and include chemicals and solvents. Under these regulations, the movement of hazardous waste is controlled by a documentation system.
Another piece of legislation which affects clinical waste is the Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations. This act looks at dangerous goods that are transported and how to manage the risk of spillages which can lead to dangerous hazards. These regulations must be followed by healthcare providers who transport clinical waste to be disposed of.
These regulations make provisions for the safe management of waste in order to protect the environment and human health. They apply to anyone who imports, produces, keeps or disposes of certain kinds of waste, including clinical waste. Waste managers have a duty of care to ensure that the waste that they are dealing with does not harm anyone or anything and is disposed of properly.
Healthcare waste managers must follow the aforementioned government legislation and the Healthcare Technical Memorandum to ensure that clinical waste is dealt with safely. They must correctly segregate and classify different types of healthcare waste to make sure that it goes to the right place for storage and treatment. They must also assess the results of the waste audit at regular intervals.
Waste must be inspected at the waste facility to ensure that the contents of the container match what was expected. Each type of waste is coded, which details the type of waste and appropriate waste management activity. In England, some waste is known as offensive hygiene waste and is sorted into yellow bags with a black stripe. Justification must be provided if this waste it to be used at an alternative treatment plant. For infectious healthcare waste, chemical or heat-based disinfection can be used as an alternative to incineration. However, this waste should not contain any chemicals, medicines or anatomical waste.
There are measures in place for the storage, segregation and handling of healthcare waste. Firstly, individual containers of waste cannot be stored loose. Bagged waste must be stored in fully enclosed and leak-proof containers such as carts. Rigid waste containers should be in good condition and sealed and handled in an upright position.
Clinical waste should be located away from sensitive perimeters and watercourses for public safety. It must be placed in a security-protected area. Anatomical waste must be stored in refrigerated units unless they will be onsite for under 24 hours. Offensive wastes must be stored in a secure building in secure bulk containers.
Clinical waste facilities should be operated in a way that minimises any waste handling. Overloading or puncturing waste should be avoided, and they should be stored according to the waste type and destination. It is important that these waste regulations are followed at all times, to protect the environment and human health.
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