Due to the potential risks associated with the improper handling of clinical waste, its proper management and disposal is vital and there are strict regulations in place to prevent harm being caused to both the environment and to human health. To enable you and those working in your practice to clearly verify if they need to take further steps to become compliant with all regulations, I have outlined below the considerations you must undertake to ensure the safe disposal of clinical waste.
1. Make sure you follow the colour-coding guidance for all your soft clinical waste
It is essential to segregate clinical waste at the point of production to ensure correct and safe disposal of all your waste streams as shown in the ‘Safe Management of Healthcare Waste’ guidance issued by the Department of Health.
2. Segregate your waste correctly on site, disposing only of clinical waste into your clinical waste bags (instrument packaging and uncontaminated paper products can go into your general waste stream)
Disposing of clinical waste costs a lot more for your organisation than disposing of general waste, and uses more energy.
3. Make sure your soft clinical waste is disposed of into a foot-operated or automatic lidded unit
This means you are not touching the lid with your hands and risking the spread of infection.
4. Do not overfill your clinical waste bags, leave enough space to tie them securely, either with a knot or post-coded bag tie
So you do not risk the bag overflowing and items falling out, also risking the spread of infection. If bags are overfilled they may also be overweight, which is a health and safety risk for those who will lift them.
5. Store all clinical waste safely and securely in a designated locked room/cupboard or an external wheelie bin
This means it is out of the path of patients and staff and there is no risk of children or animals getting into it. Under your ‘Duty of Care’ you must ensure your waste is stored safely and securely onsite.
6. Postcode all clinical waste prior to collection by your waste carrier
This shows who has the responsibility for the waste and provides traceability from ‘cradle to grave’.
The statutory ‘Duty of Care’ applies to everyone involved in the waste management industry. It states that as a producer of any controlled waste, it is your responsibility to ensure correct and proper management of the controlled waste your business produces.
7. Ensure you receive, sign and date a hazardous waste consignment note for every collection of clinical waste from your practice
This shows proof of collection and transportation to onward final disposal. All consignments of hazardous (special) waste must be accompanied by the appropriate paper work. These notes include:
- All site addresses and personnel involved with the waste transfer
- A full description of waste type, including required shipping terms
- Correct European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code for each waste stream
A copy must be stored on the customer’s premises.
8. Support colour-coding with waste segregation posters
Ensure your staff have constant reminders of the various waste streams you have on your site and how best to dispose of them following good waste segregation practice.
9. Carry out regular clinical waste training to ensure compliance, correct waste segregation, and waste minimisation, at your practice
This ensures everyone understands good waste segregation practice and has no excuse for not complying.
10. Make sure you register with the Environment Agency if you are generating more than 500kg of hazardous waste per annum
This means you are complying with the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Your EA registration number will then appear on all hazardous waste consignments, which is required under the hazardous waste regulations. Hazardous waste includes not only your clinical waste, but also any chemicals, pesticides, electrical equipment, lead acid batteries, fluorescent tubes and other waste types.