Ensuring Effective Medical Waste Packaging
There is more involved in disposing regulated medical waste (RMW) than merely throwing soiled items away in a designated trash can. Organizations that generate biohazardous or medical waste must package it appropriately for pickup and transport in order to preserve staff, patient and environmental safety—not to mention to maintain compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
Here are 5 steps for packaging medical waste to help your organization remain compliant and safe:
Step 1: Choose a Suitable Container
Organizations can either use corrugated boxes or specially-designed reusable containers for regulated medical waste. If you choose to use corrugated boxes, be sure to seal the bottom flaps with two-inch wide, clear, packing tape. Printed text and arrows should distinguish the receptacle’s top and bottom. Reusable containers do not require special set up.
Step 2: Line the Medical Waste Container with the Right Bag
A red biohazard bag must line the inside of the receptacle, overlapping its four outer sides. Be certain to comply with any state-specific requirements for bag thickness and weight limitations.
Step 3 Place the Appropriate Medical Waste in the Lined Container
Each state has slightly different definitions of what constitutes as regulated medical waste, so be sure you know what can be placed in the container. Note that medications, loose needles, scalpels, general trash, recycling, CANNOT be thrown away in a red bag. Trace chemotherapy waste and pathological waste are forms of medical waste that must be segregated. These items should be disposed of in other designated containers and marked for incineration.
Step 4. Tie the Bag, Seal the Container
Once the bag is full, with a little room at the top remaining, staff must secure it. While wearing gloves, they should gather the bag edges and twist the top of the bag to seal the contents. They then should make a strong, hand-tied single or gooseneck knot to prevent any leakage. You can also use a zip tie or tape to secure the knot if that’s easier.
After securing the bag, staff must seal the transport container. If using a reusable container, staff should engage the auto-locking flaps or secure the lid depending on the receptacle design. For corrugated boxes, staff should seal the top of the box with two-inch wide, clear packing tape. Be aware that closed red bags should not be visible once the outer container is closed and sealed. Improperly packaged waste or damaged receptacles will be denied pickup or returned to the health care organization.
Step 5. Check the Markings
The box should have appropriate labeling that meets federal, state and local requirements. It also should include any bar codes or other information from the waste hauler.
To ensure your organization correctly packages RMW, it can help to consult with a RMW management expert like Stericycle.