Medical waste generation and its disposal is a daily activity for healthcare practitioners. Although most healthcare waste is general, non-hazardous waste, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that 15% is considered to be materials that may be infectious, toxic, and radioactive. Before healthcare staff interact with medical waste, they should receive training about the risks associated with it and strategies for safely handling and disposing of it. Proper disposal of medical waste helps reduce risk in both clinical spaces and surrounding communities.
Understanding Medical Waste and Training Requirements
The Government of Canada defines biomedical waste as “waste generated in human and animal health care facilities, medical or veterinary research and training facilities, clinical testing or research laboratories, as well as vaccine production facilities. Biomedical waste includes soft waste such as blood-saturated gauze and bandages, or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) and sharps waste (comprising items like contaminated glass, needles, blades, staples, wires, and the exposed ends of dental wires). Pharmaceutical waste is any leftover, unused, or expired medication that is no longer needed or can no longer be used. (including, e.g., dietary supplements, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, homeopathic drugs, compounded drugs, and investigational drugs). All healthcare employees should undergo regular training as determined by the Provincial Ministry of Labour and the related Occupational Health and Safety Acts, the Federal and Provincial Ministry of the Environment as well as organization-specific protocols. It is important to understand the federal, provincial, and municipal requirements and to make sure you have the appropriate training in place.
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a nationwide system that gives employers and workers information about hazardous products used in the workplace. WHMIS requires employers to provide all training necessary to work with hazardous substances and must keep a written record of their employee education program.
Employee training programs need to emphasize:
- Personal hygiene, especially washing hands
- The facility’s procedures for the reduction, segregation, collection, packaging, colour-coding, labelling, storage, and in-house movement of waste
- Methods for preventing the transmission of infections related to waste-handling procedures
- The hazards of those materials to which workers may be exposed
- The actions to be taken and which supervisory staff should be notified in the event of an accident
Partner with a Medical Waste Industry Leader
Healthcare organizations should consider working with a trusted medical waste management partner. Healthcare practitioners could use external resources to support the proper disposal of biomedical waste and pharmaceutical waste as well as training.
Stericycle can be your strategic waste management partner in training. We can work with you to deliver up-to-date educational tools and resources. Stericycle offers online training modules, which enable organizations to meet WHMIS training requirements. These easy-to-use tools are available 24/7/365, so staff can complete them at their convenience. The modules also document that training has been completed for situations where the practice must document that training has occurred.