Risks and consequences of improper medical waste management

April 13, 2020

Liabilities continue to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ideally, every moving part of the healthcare organization, right down to the smallest healthcare practice, would always be compliant with all medical and hazardous waste regulations. As anyone who has ever worked in a large and bureaucratic field like healthcare knows, it can be easy for certain things to slip through the cracks. Whether it is done intentionally or accidentally, there is always the risk that some medical, hazardous, or pharmaceutical waste might be disposed of improperly. 

Poor medical waste practices should never be brushed off as unimportant. Improperly disposed of medical waste can have huge consequences not only for your bottom line but for the environment and your community as well. Absolutely no safety precaution is too trivial to observe to the fullest extent in this regard. Here are some of the detailed risks that are associated with the improper handling of medical waste that you should avoid at all costs. 

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Risk of Death, Injury, or Exposure

It goes without saying that, as a healthcare provider, this is the most serious risk associated with improper disposal of medical waste. Every day, healthcare facilities of all sizes produce varying amounts of potentially hazardous waste, including sharps, biohazards, and even pharmaceuticals that may cause harm or contamination if they are not properly disposed of through the correct channels. If any of your personnel are injured or contaminated during the process of disposal and management, be aware that there may be serious consequences for you and your facility. OSHA compliance is incredibly important, so make sure to impress the value of safety precautions upon anyone working in close proximity to medical waste in your organization. 

 

Legal Troubles

Even without the tragedy of having someone injured or exposed on the job, you might find yourself in legal hot water if you are not careful to adhere to all disposal regulations. These ramifications can be incredibly confusing and can consume a lot of your productivity. The medical organization will always be held liable for any sort of incident, and ignorance of any law or guideline, no matter how obscure or seemingly trivial, will not provide a legitimate excuse. In fact, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, liability for medical professionals has even increased. If any damage is done to your staff, patients, or the community in which you operate, a number of lawsuits may follow that could bring your business to a grinding halt. Oftentimes, even malpractice insurance does not cover this type of infringement. 

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Essential Compliance is a Win-Win

The RCRA and the EPA establish many of the guidelines that are necessary for the proper disposal of medical waste, and it is important for any healthcare provider to be intimately familiar with these regulations, using them as a guideline for any and all practices for medical waste disposal. Oftentimes fines are imposed not only for every breach of compliance but for every individual infraction within the process. With so many fines involved for the slightest infringement, you can’t really afford to be non-compliant. With all healthcare organizations following strict guidelines, healthier communities can be created for years to come.