Infection Prevention Week

October 19, 2022

Infection Prevention Week 2022

International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), established in 1986, aims to shine a light on infection prevention. IIPW is observed every third week in October.

IIPW was formed to help solve the problem of infections plaguing the nation. This week of observance has spread from the United States to Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and other regions of the world. The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) spearheads the events.

This year’s theme, “The Future is Infection Prevention: 50 Years of Infection Prevention,” highlights decades of prevention work throughout APIC’s 50 years and inspires the next generation of infection preventionists to join the fight.

The Importance of Proper Waste Management

Proper disposal of regulated medical waste (RMW) generated during patient care is critical to helping ensure a safe and healthy environment for healthcare workers and patients.

Lack of awareness about the health hazards related to healthcare waste, inadequate training in waste management, absence of waste management and disposal systems, and insufficient financial investment in a waste disposal program can all contribute to poor waste management. Inadequate medical waste management can also increase the likelihood of the spread of infections.

Some of the main sources of healthcare waste are:

  • Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
  • Laboratories and medical research centers
  • Mortuaries and autopsy centers
  • Blood banks and blood drive events
  • Nursing homes

The management of healthcare waste requires attention and diligence to help avoid adverse health outcomes associated with poor management, including potential exposure to infectious agents.

Waste Identification and Segregation

Medical waste requires careful containment before collection for treatment. Many agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have dictated required measures to be taken in discarding RMW items. These measures are designed to help protect the workers who generate medical waste and who manage the waste from generation to disposal.

Understanding the basics of RMW identification and segregation is a crucial part of infection prevention.

Regulated medical waste: Biohazardous, biomedical, infectious, or regulated medical waste as defined under federal, state, or local law. This type of waste is known — or reasonably expected to — contain a pathogen and is a waste or reusable material derived from the medical treatment of an animal or human.

Sharps waste: Any object contaminated with a pathogen or that may become contaminated with a pathogen through handling or during transportation and that is also capable of cutting or penetrating the skin or packaging material.

Examples include:

  • Scalpels
  • Blades
  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Broken glass or ampoules

Pathological waste: Human or animal tissues, organs, limbs, surgical specimens, and other body parts.

Once medical waste and sharps have been collected, the materials will be taken to a facility permitted for the treatment of RMW. Two primary methods of treating medical waste are autoclave and incineration.

Autoclaving: This process uses heat, steam, and pressure to render medical waste non-infectious.

Incineration: This process burns medical waste at elevated temperatures and reduces it to ash. 

Learn more about how Stericycle can help your organization with its waste segregation needs.

Frequently Asked Questions 

The definition of RMW, also known as biohazardous waste, varies by state. RMW generally refers to waste saturated with blood, contaminated sharps, and pathological wastes. Generally, these wastes have properties that make them potentially hazardous to human health or the environment, therefore requiring proper packaging, transport, treatment, and disposal.

Individual states often designate specific categories of RMW. They define what waste belongs in each category as well as how each category of waste must be treated. You should always refer to your state’s regulations to see how they define RMW and how it is categorized. Sharps are a type of RMW and generally include waste such as needles, scalpels, blades, syringes, and ampoules that have come in contact with blood.

No. Controlled substances need to be disposed of according to the regulations of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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