Compliance and Clinical Waste
Waste disposal was, in the past, often seen as an aesthetic process with end products that had little or no value. Even medical waste sometimes went to landfill rather than being incinerated. As you might expect, nowadays, the legislation surrounding the storage and disposal of clinical waste is quite extensive and there are strict guidelines that healthcare practices need to adhere to if they want to stay on the right side of the law. The primary legislation revolves around the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the central part of compliance is demonstrating a duty of care to those who may come into contact with any hazardous waste produced in the daily running of a practice.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (including the Duty of Care Regulations)
This stipulates that waste must be stored in such a way that it does not present a risk to humans or to the environment when it is on the healthcare practice’s premises or any other business that deals with hazardous substances. This usually means segregating the waste properly and storing it safely in the appropriate containers. There is also a section here on duty of care which means that producers have a duty to make sure that the person who is handling the disposal of their waste is properly registered/licensed to do so. That includes the site where the waste finally goes for disposal.
Other important pieces of legislation are:
- The Controlled Waste Regulations 2012
- The Hazardous Waste Directive 2011
- The Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations
Much of the current legislation and changes to the way we manage areas such as clinical waste has come from European directives and regulations which we have to comply with. These not only include directions for the legislative framework we use in dealing with waste but also how we approach areas such as recycling, incineration and landfill.
EWC Codes and Clinical Waste
Each type of waste is given a European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code which is used for transfer notes and designates how that waste should be disposed of. For example, infectious clinical waste has a code 18 01 03, is classed as hazardous and should be incinerated.
For a full list of waste codes for health care settings, visit the government waste classification pages.
Healthcare Waste Colour Codes
According to legislation, clinical waste should be clearly segregated in the appropriate coloured bin. There is a best practice available that healthcare practices need to follow and the different types of storage bin with clear signage ensures that legislation is adhered to. Staff should also be trained to make sure they know the correct procedure when dealing with clinical waste.
Find out more about clinical waste management.
Clinical Waste and Households
There are plenty of instances when an individual is being treated at home or has a long term health condition that leads to the production of clinical waste in some form. This waste is not considered part of the home but is, under legislation, part of the healthcare professional’s remit. If that waste is not hazardous and is in a suitable container, it can be disposed of in the normal waste of the household. If the waste is hazardous, the usual procedure is for the healthcare professional to take it with them and dispose according to the legislation and safety framework.
Householders who need to have regular injections can access equipment such as sharps bins and these can be collected on a regular basis for safe disposal. Unused pharmaceuticals should not be thrown into the common waste but should be returned to the pharmacist for denaturing and disposal.
The process of Clinical Waste Management
As with many waste management frameworks, healthcare practices need to have the right process in place that segregate, store, dispose of and document waste. Not only do organisations have to make sure their waste is dealt with properly onsite but they also need to employ a contractor who is licensed to deal with that kind of waste. On top of this, there needs to be a clear audit trail with invoices for the transportation and disposal of all waste.