A look at Pennsylvania medical waste requirements.

In the state of Pennsylvania medical waste disposal is managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

All of Pennsylvania’s requirements are outlined in an official document titled “The Pennsylvania Code” and covers permit requirements, processing facilities, segregation and storage of medical waste, and collection and transport.

The state’s storage requirements are rather specific; waste can be kept in a storage container at room temperature until it is full, however, waste cannot be stored in said container beyond 30 days. Generators must keep tabs on time from the moment waste material is discarded into the container.  If the waste becomes putrescent before the 30 days are up, it must be picked up and transported off-site within 24 hours.

If a storage container is full, it can still be frozen for up to 90 days from the date that the waste was originally placed in the container.

Regulated medical waste shall be placed in containers that are:

  • Leak-proof on the sides and bottom and maintained in an upright position
  • Impervious to moisture
  • Sufficient in strength to prevent puncturing, tearing or bursting during storage

Used sharps shall be placed in containers that are:

  • Rigid
  • Tightly lidded
  • Puncture resistant

The words ‘‘infectious waste’’ or ‘‘regulated medical waste’’ must be placed on the container. The container must also have the universal biohazardous waste symbol, and the date the container was full or the date that the generator sealed the container, whichever occurs earlier.

The treatment of medical waste has a lot of caveats.   A processing facility with an autoclave must process at least 50% of its own regulated medical waste. The facility may not accept more than 50% of regulated medical waste for disinfection from small quantity generators that generate less than 220 pounds per month.

Facilities may process regulated medical waste to render the waste unrecognizable through thermal treatment, melting, encapsulation, shredding, grinding, tearing or breaking.

Pennsylvania is also one of 26 states covered entirely by the federal OSHA program, which means OSHA rules apply to generators in regards to the management of sharps, requirements for containers of medical waste, and the labeling of medical waste bags/containers, as well as employee training.

Failure to comply with the regulations can result in heavy fines for generators, however, the importance for compliance is critical for public safety.

Learn how other states handle medical waste requirements.

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