At the time of writing, Government guidelines in the UK mandate the wearing of face coverings (not masks) when on public transport or attending the hospital as a visitor or outpatient, with face coverings in supermarkets and shops to be compulsory in England from 24th July for the over 11s. In the workplace, employers retain the responsibility to protect their staff by assessing the risks and implementing new protocols or PPE as appropriate. The goal continues to be minimisation of cross contamination in all environments, keeping people safe from potential infection and reducing the global impact of the Coronavirus.
It is essential that you provide the means for your employees, customers and visitors to dispose of single-use items of PPE correctly and responsibly – healthcare practices should continue to follow the HTM 07 01 Safe Management of Healthcare Waste guidelines. They should also be aware of the Government guidance around not disposing of PPE waste into standard recycling bins. All used PPE, no matter what industry or profession you’re in, has the potential to become contaminated and therefore poses a threat when discarded. The increased risk of plastic waste ending up in oceans and harming both the natural environment and wildlife also needs to be considered and mitigated against wherever possible when it comes to PPE disposal.
What does this mean in practice?
To protect others, this means we all need to dispose of used PPE in an appropriate way and ideally by following best practice guidelines, therefore it is vital that all businesses in the healthcare sector such as dental practices, aesthetic clinics, laboratories and care homes, think about providing a suitable waste disposal units for their employees, customers and visitors to dispose of such items. PPE could include disposable or single-use face masks, gloves, aprons, gowns and, disposable eye protection, amongst many other examples.
It may also be worth considering an additional dedicated PPE waste disposal area/container in your reception or waiting room for customers and visitors to discard their used PPE, in addition to your usual clinical waste disposal containers in your practice rooms. In the healthcare sector, the Department of Health’s best practice waste segregation and disposal system states that potentially infectious waste (like used PPE) should go into orange bags and rigid container bins.
Why does PPE waste need to be separated?
Whichever healthcare sector you work in you and your team, as well as your customers and other visitors, may well be wearing PPE or additional PPE to prevent the potential spread of Coronavirus. PPE works by providing a barrier to the harmful microorganisms (pathogens) that might cause infection. If these potentially contaminated items are then thrown away alongside other general waste, there is a risk that the microorganisms on the products could cross contaminate other items or people. By disposing of PPE waste in a managed way, these risks are minimised.
Furthermore, with widespread media reports and images already circulating of single-use face masks and gloves being washed up on beaches around the world, not only is it important to dispose of these items safely from a healthcare point of view, there is also an ethical argument to ensure they do not become of bigger ‘environmental’ problem as well.
How to ensure correct waste disposal of PPE in your workplace
Initial Medical are experts in healthcare waste management and offer a full range waste of products, services and support to help businesses in all industries optimise their waste management. We can help you to create used PPE disposal areas, where they are required, with our specifically designed 60L capacity bags and SilverSafe, pedal-operated clinical bins. They are colour-coded orange to meet all legal recommendations and best practice protocols for the safe, effective and ethical disposal of potentially infectious waste. Plus, we offer a secure wheelie bin to provide a lockable and fully-compliant storage option for full bags. We will then collect the waste at suitable intervals and ensure its safe disposal.
If you need any information or guidance on how to safely and effectively segregate and dispose of the PPE generated in your workplace, just give Initial Medical a call. We would be more than happy to provide bespoke advice and help you continue to protect your staff, your customers and your community to the very best of your ability.