January 20, 2022

Three Waste Management Resolutions to Help Make 2022 Your Safest Year Yet

The start of the new year is always an opportune time for reflection and resolution. The past two years have been different from any other in our lifetimes, so it stands to reason that making the same old New Year’s resolutions may not work. As the pandemic alters how we work and live, and stresses our healthcare systems, it may be time to choose different resolutions.

What better way to start than with one of the most critical health and safety issues healthcare workers face. That is, practicing safe medical waste disposal and sharps management to help prevent injuries and maintain compliance with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

The following resolutions offer helpful resources to help you incorporate compliant healthcare waste management strategies into your processes.

First, What’s at Stake?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, hospital-based healthcare personnel in the U.S. experience an average of one thousand needlesticks or other sharps-related injuries every day. That equates to approximately 385,000 injuries every year. Many more also occur in other healthcare settings, such as emergency services, home care, and nursing homes.

Needlestick injuries can lead to serious infections. When needles are not disposed of properly there is an increased risk of disease transmission. In fact, OSHA estimates that 5.6 million healthcare workers are at risk of occupational exposure to different bloodborne pathogens due to needlestick injuries. 

With this in mind, our safety experts offer suggestions for three waste management resolutions to make this year:

1.      Promote a Culture of Safety

By creating a culture of safety, carefully designed in consideration of appropriate sharps usage and disposal, healthcare organizations can promote a safer work environment and better health, well-being, and quality of life for employees.

Did you know that OSHA, whose mission is to "ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers," mandates that hospitals demonstrate that they have reconsidered their methods of disposing of sharps every year? The OSHA regulations state that facilities must “document annually consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure.”

Organizations can use this annual requirement as an opportunity to invite team members from a variety of disciplines to provide suggestions regarding how to improve safety. For example, a hospital might choose to ask environmental services, nursing, and pharmacy employees to tour the operating room (OR) once per week, looking for ways to improve safety.

This is also an opportune time to review sharps safety protocols and ensure all staff is fully trained on how to prevent sharps injuries. Bloodborne pathogens training should highlight each employee's responsibility in preventing accidental needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries. 

2.    Implement Safe and Convenient Containers

As part of your resolution to promote a culture of safety, remember to immediately dispose of contaminated needles in properly secured, puncture-resistant, closable, leak-proof, labeled sharps containers.

Seek the input of clinicians, infection control specialists, and environmental services (depending on your type of facility) in determining which containers to use and how to encourage correct use. Consider federal and state regulations in addition to the layout of the organization, its practices, protocols, and seasonality in patient volume.

Consider solutions that can be tailored to fit the needs of any facility type or size, like Stericycle’s Disposable Sharps Containers, which are designed to manage sharps waste with biohazardous or “red bag” waste; our Sharps Management Service, which includes reusable containers; or our SafeDrop™ Sharps Mail Back solution, which includes auto-replenishment options and is ideal for pharmacies or households. 

3.      Improve Safety through Compliance

Compliance is one of the most critical elements in keeping your staff safe and avoiding liabilities. Selecting a knowledgeable medical waste management partner can play a crucial role in helping you ensure that sharps waste management processes are handled correctly from end to end, from collection and transportation to treatment and disposal.

Make 2022 Your Safest Year Yet

The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to begin making your workplace the safest it can be. By consistently striving to create a culture of safety, resolving to implement safe and effective sharps disposal containers, and partnering with safety and compliance experts when needed, you can help reduce exposure to needlesticks and promote better health, well-being, and quality of life for employees.

Learn how Stericycle can help. 

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