The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been increasing the number of audits performed each year, including those done at veterinary clinics and other medical institutions. These unannounced visits can mean big trouble in the form of fines if you are not properly prepared. This includes having a clear and efficient system of medical waste disposal in place, and practiced without fail.
It Starts With Staff Training
The medical waste disposal program you have initiated in your veterinary hospital is only as good as the workers you have put in place to take charge of it. Training is single most important way you can ensure that your OSHA inspection will go smoothly. This cannot be a one time event, you must be providing continuous training regularly to all workers who have contact with medical waste inside of your facility.
Working with a medical waste disposal company will help you to make sure that you are providing comprehensive on site training, and that the material offered is up to date with the latest standards set forth by OSHA.
Start by implementing a new employee orientation that covers the expectations and methods for medical waste disposal in your veterinary hospital. Also make sure that you are being given the latest news and updates from OSHA, and relaying that information to your employees immediately. The last step is to document all of the training taking place for when there is an audit of your facility.
Operate Like OSHA is Always Watching
Not allowing deviations from standards in the day to day operations ensures that none occur when OSHA is watching. This means having your own self inspections regularly, looking at the medical waste disposal methods with an objective eye. Correct even the slightest mishap on the spot so that your workers know what is always expected of them.
Put a staff member in charge of organizing the documents required by OSHA. This not only includes staff training reports, but manifests of medical waste disposal records showing the amount and types of medical waste picked up, and its final destination point.
Designate a Point Man
You should have one or two individuals designated to be the “tour guide” for an OSHA inspector. They will greet the inspector and accompany them as they make their way through your medical facility. Instruct them to take notes and even pictures of any violations the inspector finds so that you can be better prepared in the future. This person should show an active interest in the audit, and a willingness to comply with the regulations. Having the right individual fill this role can make a difference when it comes to receiving warnings versus fines.
If you are prepared ahead of time, then you should be able to breeze through any audit thrown at your clinic by the government. Just remember to keep your systems for medical waste disposal up to date, and your staff trained in the proper ways to follow those procedures to the end.
There are standards for precautions in veterinary medicine that are designed to help stop the spread of certain diseases from animals to the humans caring for them. Among these standards are guidelines that specifically target medical waste disposal at these clinics.
In 2003 there was an outbreak of African monkey-pox infection inside the United States. Of the 71 individuals who became infected with the disease, 18 were individuals working inside of veterinary clinics. As a result, authorities realized the potential risk that these workers were facing, and the immediate need for infection control methods in veterinary medicine. African monkey-pox is just one of 868 known human pathogens that are zoophytic. Others include plague, salmonellae, and Q fever.
Veterinary Medical Waste Disposal
The AVMA defines veterinary medical waste as being sharps, tissues, contaminated materials and animal carcasses. They recommend that these items be handled with care and packaged in a way that prevents spills or leaks. Sharps used for the treatment of animals need to be placed inside of puncture and leak resistant rigid containers that are able to be sealed permanently. If the waste has not been sterilized, it should be placed inside of containers that bear the universal biohazard symbol.
Sharp containers used in veterinary medicine should be found in every area where animals are being cared for. All used syringes should be placed inside of these boxes after fluids have been drawn or medicines have been injected into an animal – infected or not. You are not permitted to cut needles before disposing of them, nor should the syringe be removed by hand. If there is a need to remove the syringe from the needle prior to disposal, it should be done using the needle removal device found on many sharps containers.
As with other healthcare facilities, sharps containers should never go above 2/3 capacity and the contents should never be transferred from one box to another. The safest method for removal and replacement is with a licensed medical waste disposal company. MedWaste Management can assist you in finding permanent locations for sharps containers inside of your clinic and replace them for you on demand.
Following the guidelines for infection control is extremely important in veterinary medicine. Animals are carriers for numerous diseases, many of which can be transmitted to humans. Transmission is not just through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. In some instances these diseases are airborne, making the handling of all materials that an infected animal has come in contact with critical.
In order to secure the health and safety of the individuals working inside of your veterinary clinic, and the general population, always follow the guidelines stated for medical waste disposal in veterinary practices. Working with a professional medical waste disposal company will significantly cut the risk of infectious materials being exposed to workers and patient-owners.
How is Biological Waste Defined in a Veterinary Practice?
Veterinarians are held to the same standards as physicians and medical facilities when it comes to the safe handling of biological waste. This starts at the source of the medical waste and does not end until it has been properly disposed of in a way that does not pose any type of risk to humans or the environment. Understanding what constitutes as biological waste in your veterinary practice is the first step towards its proper collection and disposal.
It seems easy enough, as the word waste typically refers to anything that we no longer have use or need for, but waste is more complicated at the medical level. This is due primarily to the possibility of bloodborne pathogens being present in the waste which could pose the threat of spreading an infectious disease. Animal biological waste is not exempt from the special standards in place for its reintroduction into the environment.
The EPA defines all solid waste as being any garbage or refuse generated inside of a veterinary office. This would include animal tissue, fluids, carcasses, laboratory chemicals, syringes, medical supply waste, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs and equipment, light bulbs, batteries and mercury found in thermometers. This is a very broad category, but the EPA further breaks it down into two sub-categories; hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste. Typical medical waste generated by the practices of veterinarians will fall under the non-hazardous category and would include things such as:
- Animal bedding
- Wound dressings
- Tissue samples
Where it may get confusing for a veterinarian is that while these are not considered “hazardous” wastes in the way that some solvents, drugs and batteries are, they may be considered a “bio-hazard”. Bio-hazardous medical waste is defined as material that could potentially contain infectious disease pathogens that pose a health risk those who come into contact with it. Almost all of the waste generated during routine treatment of animals in your practice should be classified as a bio-hazard to eliminate any risk of potentially spreading a bloodborne disease.
Bio-hazardous waste is also referred to as regulated medical waste and includes the following:
- The equipment, instruments and tools of a disposable nature that have been used in the diagnosis or treatment of an animal who is suspected of having a communicable disease.
- Tissues, blood samples and other excretions taken from a patient and used to help diagnose an infection or disease.
- Any specimens removed during surgery of the animal.
Special disposal practices are required for the various forms of biological waste that a veterinarian is generating in their day to day practices. The complications in definitions and various procedures necessitate a professional biological waste disposal company to assist you in segregating and disposing of waste in a way that is in full compliance with local laws, yet does not interfere with patient care.