Healthcare organizations around the globe are dealing with increased volumes of waste, and few are the hospitals and clinics that have actually implemented a system that excels, in terms of both environmental protection and in-house convenience.
As a stakeholder at a hospital, one of your responsibilities is to improve your waste management practices. If the way you are currently handling things on the premises isn’t exactly advantageous, perhaps you need to get organized and adopt a different strategy.
Considering the fact that hospital-generated waste often involves safety concerns, some of the waste being ether infectious or hazardous, following a few guidelines is recommended. What are the factors that you should acknowledge on the subject? How can you make things more efficient in the waste management department?
Here are some important details to look over and use in any healthcare environment:
Waste handling is one of the first tasks that come into play here, and an important one as well. The most relevant recommendation here is to increase safety awareness among staff members who are in charge of handling hospital waste. Injuries or contamination can happen if handlers don’t keep up with necessary safety precautions.
Your staff members should not only receive reminders on the matter, but should be put through period training, where they can learn about the risks associated with waste handling, and what procedures and techniques to use when dealing with different types of occupational accidents. Waste handling should always meet compliance regulations, so test your staff members before assigning responsibilities.
Identifying waste reduction opportunities
What many healthcare centers fail to do is trying to reduce their waste. Waste reduction opportunities exist in any hospital, these only need to be identified and pursued properly. Make it your priority to put together an action plan that allows you to find the best ways of reducing the amount of waste your organization produces.
An example of waste reduction possibility could be the following: Evaluate your supply ordering practices. This will prevent you from having to throw away perishable products because they’ve surpassed expiration date. You have multiple other solutions available, so assess the current situation the hospital finds itself in, and make possible adjustments.
Separating and recycling
Recycling is equally important in healthcare facilities as it is in any other type of organization from a different industry. Surprisingly, the health care industry is actually one of the last untapped sources of high-quality plastics. Many materials are being directly tossed into trash bins together, no separation being made between irrigation bottles, sterilization wraps, basins, IV bags, etc. Most of the plastic ends up in incinerators or landfills, despite the fact that more than half of that plastic waste is actually nonhazardous, and in most cases, free from any patient contact.
What more hospitals are recommended to do is implement a recycling program that promotes waste separation. If the waste in the facility would be segmented into infectious, hazardous, radioactive, and general waste that is non-hazardous in-nature, less plastic would end up incinerated or in landfills.
Consider adopting a different approach here, by adding more bins to the facility, and making use of appropriate waste disposal and recycling containers, compactor and balers. As seen at Mil-tek, the right waste disposal equipment can contribute tremendously to an organization’s recycling activities. More healthcare centers should invest in these types of machineries.
How should hospitals deal with waste storage correctly? Design specific locations within the facility, for temporary storage purposes. Usually, buildings constructed for the healthcare industry incorporate designated areas for proper waste storage.
These in-house locations should be well separated, and completely enclosed at the same time. As mentioned above, you should segregate all the waste based on disposal route and potentially hazardous nature. The staff who is responsible for waste handling should take care of storage and segregation as well.
Label all of your containers properly, so no mix-ups can occur, putting at risk your recycling processes, and the safety of your employees. If things aren’t done by the book in terms of storage, and compliance rules aren’t met, you could be subjected to fines, or even have the entire facility closed down. Inform yourself on the matter properly, and make sure your waste handlers are keeping up with requirements.
For the materials that cannot be recycled or disposed of traditionally, incineration is often a solution healthcare facilities resort to. However, considering the negative environmental impact incineration has, hospitals trying to green their activities are choosing waste treatment as a better alternative.
Treatment technologies are available, some of them being more environmentally friendly than others, and more convenient than incineration. Treating hazardous materials coming from the healthcare industry usually involves 5 processes: chemical, thermal, mechanical, biological, and irradiation. The process selected depends mostly on the nature of the hazardous waste.
The final step of an optimal waste management system consists of efficient transportation. While transporting regular, non-hazardous waste doesn’t involve any challenges, when it comes to infectious materials, you need to comply with national regulations.
Hazardous waste should always be transported separately from general facility waste, the same way it’s stored and segregated separately. Drivers in charge of transportation need to go through special training, wear appropriate equipment and keep up with the recommended emergency procedures. They should also be medically fit to fill in this type of position.
For your recycled bits, find a reliable company that can help you dispose of plastic waste on time and in a correct manner.
Proper waste management is critical in the healthcare environment. However, often, practices aren’t perfected in this department, triggering a variety of inconveniences. If you and the rest of the hospital stakeholders aim to make some necessary adjustments, consider the factors underlined above first. Each one of the details mentioned here can help you ameliorate how you are currently handling waste, and will allow you to tackle potential problems. An inadequate approach will not only inconvenience the hospital, but could trigger environmental concerns as well.