It’s not hard to make a mistake when it comes to biohazard waste disposal. Federal regulations seem to be constantly changing, and it can be expensive and time-consuming to make sure that your staff is completely up-to-date on how to properly dispose of biohazard waste at all times. Many businesses and organizations don’t mean to commit offenses, but even with the best of intentions, they can still end up with fines and reputational damage. Here are 5 of the most common mistakes organizations make when it comes to biohazard waste disposal.
Not Packaged Properly
In the past, biohazard waste could often be packaged for transportation in common containers you might find around the house. Reused milk cartons, for instance, were popular for handling and disposing of sharps. This simply isn’t the case anymore. Now, all medical waste must be disposed of in proper containers that are certified by the Department of Transportation. These containers protect against spillage, leakage, tampering, and punctures, while also being reusable if cleaned properly. These containers are hard plastic, and have a stamp of approval from the Department of Transportation right on them, so you know that you’re using the right container.
If you are transporting more than 50 pounds of biohazard waste, then you absolutely must get a permit, even if it’s stored in a certified container. Getting a permit can be expensive, and you are required to attend training classes to be able to qualify. Biohazard waste disposal involves bringing the waste to a disposal facility, so transportation is a big part of the process. The classes will teach you about the proper ways to transport, and the best way to package the particular type of biohazard waste you might be dealing with.
Using the Same Packaging for Disposal as Was Used for Shipping
Even if a product was deemed safe enough to be shipped in a certain type of packaging, that doesn’t mean it remains safe once it’s categorized as biohazard waste. It’s at that point that it must be transported in the DOT approved containers. Often, products are in a certain state when they are originally shipped, and that state changes once it comes into contact with the air, or human tissue, or many other substances. Or, the packaging includes specialized protective pieces, such as plastic tips on syringes.
The Wrong Container
You might have a DOT approved container to transport your waste, however it may not be the correct container. There are specific containers for sharps, medications, and pills, for instance. Do not attempt to place sharps into anything other than a sharps container, since a needle may puncture a bag or box and place everyone at risk. Your local waste disposal specialists should be able to provide you with a list of the appropriate containers for each type of waste you might be disposing.
The Wrong Person Signing Off
As mentioned, getting a permit to transport medical waste involves a cost and hours of training. But what if the proper person is sick, and someone else signs off on the transportation of hazardous materials? If that surrogate is not able to answer any questions the DOT might have during an audit, then the organization may be in danger of citations and/or fines.
There are many things that can go wrong with handling biohazardous waste, so keep these things in mind. Of course, it might be even easier to outsource your disposal needs to a certified specialist to avoid any unwanted issues.