27 July 2018
Health care facilities can generate as much as 25 pounds of waste per day, per patient. The majority of which is non-regulated waste, meaning it’s the same as the waste produced by other businesses, such as hotels—and approximately 60 percent of this is recyclable. The remaining waste includes regulated medical waste —sharps, chemo, non-hazardous pharmaceuticals—and hazardous chemical waste, including various pharmaceuticals.
To ensure proper waste treatment and disposal, organizations must separate different waste types into specially designed containers. Depending on the organization, these may be general, recyclable, regulated medical (red bag), sharps, pharmaceutical, and/or controlled substance waste containers. Located throughout a facility, these receptacles should be placed in areas that make it easy for staff to throw away materials. Check with your medical waste vendor to see if there are signs or training posters to help reinforce segregation procedures.
Staff play a key role in ensuring waste ends up in the appropriate container each and every time. If employees are not scrupulous about how they throw waste away, they can inadvertently cause serious harm. For instance, they could raise the volume of materials going to a landfill unnecessarily, increase the chances that dangerous substances leach into the surrounding environment, cause staff injury due to improperly disposed needles or other serious consequences.
Because of the key role that employees play, it’s essential for organizations to provide regular training and education on how to segregate waste and the importance of doing so. Such education should be varied to keep it fresh and compelling, and include real-world applications so staff can easily apply what they learn to their day-to-day work.
Although it’s helpful to give reminders about waste segregation during staff meetings, organizations should deliver more comprehensive training throughout the year. Offering online tools can make it more convenient for staff as they can access the training any time, from anywhere. Stericycle offers dynamic online options that are both informative and engaging, using practical examples to illustrate important points.
Periodically observing staff to check how they dispose of various items allows you to verify that employees are reliably and consistently following procedures. Ideally, such assessments should be conducted without staff knowledge as individuals may change their behavior if they know they are being watched. By observing employees unannounced, organizations can get a true picture of what’s happening on a regular basis.
It can be beneficial to use quizzes, contests and other games to determine how well training sticks and determine where there might be room for additional training. For example, an organization may choose to hold a contest in which staff have to guess what’s wrong with several pictures that illustrate waste disposal. Perhaps there are items mixed together that shouldn’t be, or maybe a certain type of waste is in the wrong container? Having staff participate in such activities can not only build knowledge but also foster a cultural commitment to better, more reliable waste segregation.
Learn more about how Stericycle can help design a comprehensive waste disposal training program for staff.
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