Medical waste packaging includes red bags, sharps containers, biohazard containers, and more. But whose responsibility is it to ensure that medical waste goes where it belongs?
On-site management of regulated medical waste is a multi-pronged issue, as there are state and federal regulations, all of which cover packaging, disposal, handling, and removal. Many states require that facilities that deal with medical waste have a plan to meet OSHA requirements, and with all of these rules and regulations in place, deciphering who is responsible for what can be confusing. When it comes to packaging medical waste, facilities must check with their respective state for the most up-to-date regulations, but many have common denominators that are the same across the board.
What is medical waste packaging and who is responsible for it?
Labeling and packaging medical waste in a facility that deals with regulated medical waste is the responsibility of the facility itself. This is part of “cradle-to-grave” processing. What “cradle-to-grave” means is from the moment you generate medical waste, the disposal of that waste is ultimately your responsibility. Even if you hire someone else to do it, you are still liable for any failure on their part to follow the law. “Cradle-to-grave” comes from The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, or RCRA. This was enacted because, prior to this law, only 10 percent of hazardous waste material was being managed properly.
Medical waste packaging includes sharps containers, biohazard containers, plastic bags, and reusable containers. Failure to comply with safe containment is not only an environmental issue, but a community health issue that can come with hefty fines.
Because of the nature of medical waste, it cannot be thrown in a regular trash receptacle. For sharps, the container must be rigid, leak-resistant, and puncture-resistant as not to spread infectious disease. Sharps containers must also be secured tightly.
According to the FDA, used needles and other sharps must be immediately placed in FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers. It also says that sharps containers must be:
- made of a heavy-duty plastic;
- able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid, without sharps being able to come out;
- upright and stable during use;
- leak-resistant; and
- properly labeled to warn of hazardous waste inside the container.
- As with any package, one must not overfill! The FDA recommends facilities fill sharps containers only ¾ full to prevent injury.
With plastic bags, not all are created equal. Medical waste facilities cannot simply rely on old shopping bags or zipper-style bags to throw away waste. Medical waste plastic bags must be tear-resistant, and be red in color to distinguish it from regular trash.
Reusable containers are acceptable, but the container itself must be disinfected after each use.
Your best safeguard against non-compliance and maintaining community health is to work with a reputable medical waste removal company, such as Red Bags.
Red Bags disposes of hazardous materials generated by hospitals, nursing homes, dental clinics, tattoo parlors, and pharmacies, as well as many other types of industrial and commercial companies.
Because containing medical waste is a health and environmental issue, Red Bags offers equipment to ensure that you’re keeping your medical waste where it belongs: in a safe, secure, and approved package for removal. We can provide bins, red bags, and sharps containers so you never have to worry about whether or not you are in compliance.
Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.
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