5 Steps on How To Develop A Formal Medical Waste Management Plan

Waste management is an emerging challenge in municipal areas. Discards or waste can be of many categories, and each category poses different hazards and must be handled appropriately for safe disposal.

Biomedical hazard is the waste that medical facilities like diagnostic clinics, hospitals, etc., generate. The by-products of a hospital or a clinic can be quite harmful and are a potential health hazard if they are not dealt with effectively. So if you are in charge of managing a hospital or a diagnostic clinic, you may consult a medwaste management company.

This article describes, in brief, the steps in a formal biomedical discard management program.

Steps To Take To Effectively Deal With Biomedical Hazards

1. Build Awareness And Train The Staff

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Building awareness and training the staff about the potential hazard associated with a discarded product and the effective ways to deal with it is the first step in a management plan. In a hospital setting, nurses, doctors, ward boys, and sweepers are the ones who are expected to deal with the discarded generated. Hence, each person who in some way or the other is responsible for disposal should be made aware of the different types of waste and the kind of hazard posed by each type.

For instance, many janitors may not know that sharp objects such as broken vials or even a needle is a hazardous waste. A sharp object placed in a regular garbage pile can be a serious hazard, especially in a water management system that involves manual segregation of discards.

Likewise, the entire staff should know that there are different categories of medical discards, and each type needs to be disposed of in a color-coded manner. Most countries mandate that biological tissue must be discarded in yellow-colored bags.

So any tissue that is removed in a surgical procedure should be disposed of in a yellow-colored bag. Likewise, black-colored bags are usually reserved for chemical wastes like old drug samples, etc. Blue-colored bags are usually used for plastic wastes like used gloves, syringes, etc.

2. Review The Waste Generated From A Biomedical Facility After Regular Time Intervals

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Any waste disposal plan can be successful only if the waste management facility is capable of handling the waste that is generated in a system. So if a hospital produces more tonnes of waste that need incineration, the incineration facility has to be beefed up to keep up with the increased amount of load.

If the tonnage of waste increases to a great extent, then the hospital authorities may consider building onsite disposal and treatment mechanisms. Building an onsite treatment plant is expensive in the short run because building the treatment facility will require a lot of space and will also have to comply with the regulatory norms. However, in the long term, it is cost-effective as the transportation cost for carrying the waste will become almost negligible when the hospital has an onsite treatment facility.

3. Reviewing The Waste Management Policy Of The Hospital Or The Clinic

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The discard management policy of a hospital or a clinic should be in line with the policies laid out by the government of the day. So if the policy prescribes that every large hospital should have an onsite pretreatment facility, then the hospital management should allocate funds to build a pretreatment facility.

Again, the waste management system on the site of a hospital has to comply with environmental norms. So if the smoke or the carbon particles generated from an onsite incinerator is beyond the limits prescribed by the local authorities, then the hospital management may be in trouble. So timely review of policies is a must for adequate compliance and safety of the disposal process.

4. Assess And Inspect From Time To Time

For a waste management system to function smoothly, timely inspections and assessments are a must. So regular inspections should be carried out to check if the new recruits have been oriented with the discard management procedures. It is important to check if the staff is complying with the norms and if the treatment facilities are functioning optimally at all times.

However, the inspection should not be restricted to the hospital premises only. If the waste generated onsite needs to be transported to an off-site treatment facility, then the entire route from generation to disposal should be monitored.

5. Set Long And Short Terms Goals

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Every management plan or policy should have some long and short-term goals that it wishes to achieve to improve the effectiveness of the process. So for a hospital waste management plan, the short-term goal can be introducing a barcoding system for discarded bags.

A barcoding system will make sure that the handlers in the downstream process do not have to reopen the discarded bag to know the type of waste present in it. A barcode system can digitize the entire management process in the long term.

Another good long-term measure could be to phase out plastic bags from the discard management system. Plastics are harmful to the environment, and they take many years to degrade. However, replacing plastics is not feasible in the short term because the replacements are expensive, and their properties are not as great as plastics. However, plastics can be replaced in a phased manner as and when appropriate replacements are developed and available in the market.

Conclusion

Safely handling and treating biomedical waste is a priority for medical facilities and for the community at large. Hospitals regularly deal with infectious agents like viruses and bacteria-laden cotton swabs or tissues. If these are not dealt with properly, they can infect hundreds of people and result in an epidemic-like situation.

Thus, it is vital to review the preparedness of the hospital staff at regular intervals. Training sessions and awareness meetings must be conducted every six or twelve months to ensure that all the staff members are up to date about the rules and know what to do when handling a sharp object, an injurious chemical, or an infected tissue.