What Government Agencies Are Responsible for Medical Waste Disposal?
There are a variety of resources and agencies that oversee the proper disposal of medical waste, but managing compliance can be confusing. There is no one answer to the question of who is responsible for medical waste disposal, as regulations vary by state and local requirements. The main agencies involved with regulated medical waste (RMW) include:
- US Department of Transportation (DOT)
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Medical waste disposal isn’t exclusive to how it is disposed of, but also how it is transported. This is where the DOT comes in. Shippers of medical waste must ensure compliance with the U.S. DOT Hazardous Material Regulations for ground transport. In addition, the DOT requires that carriers are trained in general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training.
While the EPA does not currently have congressional authority to regulate medical waste, it is worth mentioning its history. The EPA has not had authority since the expiration of the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 in 1991. However, it still serves as a resource for RMW information. As its name suggests, the EPA serves to protect human health and the environment, so while it no longer governs RMW, it works with other arms of health agencies to protect the environment from RMW.
The EPA does, however, have jurisdiction over medical waste treatment technologies and processing plants, which reduce the infectiousness of the waste by using chemicals and other alternative methods. This jurisdiction comes from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Companies must register their products under FIFRA through EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticide, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS), Antimicrobial Division.
The FDA is responsible for the protection of public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. It currently oversees medical products and tobacco, foods, global regulatory operations and policy, and operations.
The FDA has specific requirements for the containment of medical waste. Federal regulations require that regulated bloodborne pathogen medical waste be placed in bags that are either labeled with the biohazard symbol, are colored red, or both. Used sharps must be placed in containers meeting FDA puncture-resistant and leak-proof certification.
OSHA regulations relating to medical waste are designed to ensure the safety of anyone who comes in contact with that waste. It is responsible for establishing guidelines that dictate the safe handling, transport, and disposal of medical waste. While the majority of medical workers are aware of these regulations, one misstep can lead to hefty fines, and the consequences can escalate if a doctor’s office or hospital is found to be negligent.
The only way to stay compliant is through proper OSHA training. MedXwaste offers OSHA Compliance Training, available completely online, and covers topics such as safety training, federal regulations, and safety plan building.
While managing medical waste disposal can be tricky, MedXwaste serves as an authority on all local and federal laws to help you maintain compliance.
Contact us today for assistance with adhering to biohazard waste regulations.