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Need to Know

NWRA Releases Interim Guidance for Safe Handling of Medical Waste

NWRA Releases Interim Guidance for Safe Handling of Medical Waste
NWRA’s Healthcare Waste Institute developed interim guidance to address the safe handling of medical waste during the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Waste & Recycling Association’s (NWRA) Healthcare Waste Institute (HWI) developed interim guidance to address the safe handling of medical waste during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Just as doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are taking precautions to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, it is important that the waste collection workers have the tools and resources to reduce their exposure to this virus as well. I applaud our Healthcare Waste Institute for preparing this timely information to keep our members’ employees safe,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith in a statement.

The guidance includes important information, including the following details.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance for waste management is based on the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) determination that the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is not a Category A infectious substance.

  • OSHA states that workers and employers should manage waste contaminated with 2019-nCoV as they would other regulated medical waste. OSHA also states that workers use appropriate engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices and personal protective equipment, such as puncture-resistant gloves and face/eye protection, to prevent worker exposure to medical waste, including sharps and other items that can cause injuries or exposures to infectious materials.
  • HWI suggests requesting customers to utilize the following as guidance for managing 2019-nCoV materials:
    • Ensure red bags are properly closed and tied with an overhand balloon knot so that they are leakproof before being moved.
    • Red bags should be placed in a container with a secure lid.
    • All sharps containers should be fully closed, placed in a bag and placed in a container. Preferably, single-use disposable sharps containers should be used in place of reusable sharps containers.
    • Containers should be single-use and in compliance with Department of Transportation regulatory requirements for regulated medical waste.
    • Single-use containers can be treated at a permitted medical waste facility.
    • Avoid taking medical waste to a facility that shreds in an open atmosphere prior to treatment to reduce potential worker exposure. Shredding in an enclosed treatment process is acceptable.
    • Notify hauler about wastes that contain 2019-nCoV.
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