How MedSharps Can Help You Avoid Big Fines and Penalties

In October 2021, Fortune 500 Company DuPont made headlines when the Justice Department, the EPA, and the state of Texas fined the chemical manufacturer $3.1 million for a laundry list of violations from their chemical manufacturing plant in Orange, Texas. These infractions included improper disposal of hazardous waste causing water and air pollution. More specifically, the violations included the improper use of chemicals, improper disposal of wastewater and improper disposal of waste without a permit.

For a global company like DuPont, a three-million-dollar fine can easily be paid and they can learn from their mistakes and move on with business as usual. But what about small to mid-sized businesses? A large fine can have a significant impact on the longevity and success of these businesses and can ultimately lead to closure.

Big fines and penalties from OSHA, the EPA, and other federal, state and local agencies can be avoided if you have a solid compliance plan. It all starts with knowing the rules and the situations that can lead to problems. When it comes to waste disposal, here are some common issues that can lead to violations, and, if not corrected, stiff fines and penalties.

Six Common Causes of Violations and Penalties

1. Inadequate employee training – According to OSHA, all employees with occupational exposure, whether they are full-time, part-time, or temporary workers must receive initial and annual training. This includes general training outlined in OSHA standards as well as site-specific training by a person who is knowledgeable in the subject matter. Regardless of your plans and processes for handling, storing, and disposing of medical waste, they are only as effective as your employee’s ability to execute them. Many violations can be avoided simply by offering educational training on a regular basis, so all employees know how to classify hazardous materials and dispose of them the right way. One very common violation is having incomplete or missing training records. In case of an inspection, always keep your training documentation current and ready for review.

2. Inappropriate medical waste containers and improper labeling – It’s no surprise that this ranks so high on the list of common violations. Having the right container for medical waste would seem like an easy thing to get right but, too often, this is the reason for penalties and fines. For example, used sharps (anything used for injecting or cutting) need to be kept in a sturdy, puncture-proof container that has been certified as tamper-proof and leak-proof. Containers that are damaged or have the potential to leak are violations of the OSHA standard. Containers should be labeled to segregate the waste by type to prevent contamination. An employee who puts a used needle into a red biohazard liner is committing a violation as the liners are for non-sharp infectious waste and blood products, not for sharps. Labelling hazardous waste bins and bags is also a critical process to ensure proper disposal. Depending on the size of the facility, the possibility of a violation goes up due to the amount of waste being handled. Common violations can include a missing date of accumulation label or using the wrong-colored bag.

3. Not knowing your waste generator status – Different rules apply depending on the generator status of your facility. For example, EPA guidelines state that a facility with an SQG (Small Quantity Generator) designation is allowed to keep quantities of medical waste under 6,000 kilograms on site for up to 180 days. However, a facility designated as an LQC (Large Quantity Generator) has no limitations in terms of amount of medical waste but can only keep it on site for 90 days. To further complicate matters, in Texas, you can be categorized with CESQ (Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity) status if you produce a small amount of waste and meet certain conditions. The EPA and TCEQ require all facilities who generate medical waste to track the quantities of waste to determine their generator status and follow the guidelines that apply. Not knowing your facility’s generator status can lead to mismanagement of hazardous waste which can lead to penalties and fines.

4. Illegal dumping of hazardous waste in dumpsters or drains – One very common violation, unfortunately, is the practice of employees placing trash in dumpsters onsite or even using drains to dispose of medical waste materials. Whether this practice is done on purpose or due to the employee not being educated on medical waste procedures, it is illegal and a violation that carries heavy fines and could potentially cause harm to the environment. Regardless of the facility’s waste generator status, management is responsible for properly training employees to follow the correct protocols when it comes to disposing of medical waste.

5. Improper waste segregation – This also seems like a no-brainer; keep your regular trash separate from medical waste. All facilities are required to identify the waste they are disposing of and follow the protocols for that type of waste. Some wastes are commonly overlooked, like cotton, gauze, or other blood-stained materials that can be thrown into the regular trash receptacles. Other violations occur when an employee isn’t aware that a material is considered hazardous. Regular training and research into local, state, and federal agencies is the only way to ensure that hazardous materials being disposed of correctly. For example, solvents or batteries should never be placed in medical waste containers. This is a common violation and could incur penalties, fines, and, in extreme cases, jail.

6. Failure to conduct regular inspections – Conducting regular inspections is the best method for determining if your facility is compliant and following protocols that meet the standards. These inspections should include evaluating waste containers for overall condition and proper labeling. They should determine if waste segregation and waste disposal protocols are being followed based on training guidelines. Failure to conduct and document regular inspections leaves your company at risk for big fines and penalties.

Getting an investigation query from a federal, state, or local agency can be a stressful and disruptive experience but incurring penalties can be even worse. Monetary fines put a financial burden on your business, but these violations can also point out that you are not prioritizing the safety or your patients and employees.
You can always do the research on your own to come up with your compliance plan. Agencies like OSHA and the EPA provide pages and pages of legal guidelines and regulations, but that can be a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor for smaller companies who might not have the personnel or the know-how to get it done. It’s a daunting task when you consider you have to account for EPA and OSHA regulations on the federal level and then incorporate any state or local guidance into your plan.

Managing the disposal of medical waste and staying compliant is no easy task. Maintaining your knowledge of ever-changing local, state, and federal regulations is a full-time job. With so many moving parts, it’s not hard for one minor detail to slip through the cracks and suddenly you have an inspector at your front door.

At MedSharps, we’re medical waste experts and we’ve done all the research for you. We take pride in staying up to date on all the latest regulatory changes so we know what you can and can’t do with your medical waste.

Visit MedSharps.com today for a free quote. Our educated team of waste experts will help you find the best and most efficient path to OSHA compliance and avoid big fines and penalties.

How To Pass an OSHA Inspection: 5 Steps You Can Take to Prepare

With vaccinations increasing and implementation of workplace testing, there could be an increase in OSHA inspections to ensure companies are disposing of medical waste properly. Whether you have been inspected before or not, a sudden inspection can be confusing and worrisome if you aren’t fully prepared.

If an OSHA Inspector showed up at your company doors today, how would your company fare? Do you have all your bases covered or could you potentially be facing fines and penalties?

How Does an OSHA Inspections Work?

OSHA inspections have three parts…

1. The Opening Conference – The OSHA Inspector will meet with the employer and their compliance team to go over their inspection plan and explain the reason for the inspection. At this point, the employer will be asked to provide a representative to accompany the inspector on their survey.

2. Inspection Tour – The inspector will tour the facilities and could perform a wide-range of activities including paperwork review, employee interviews and observation of processes pertinent to compliance. OSHA inspectors may also want to see your procedures for handling the medical waste associated with COVID-19 safety, testing, etc.

3. Closing Conference – After the inspection, the inspector meets with the employer to review the findings and discuss any procedures or polices that require correction and a timeline for making those changes. A report will be generated and sent to the OSHA director who will make the determination if a citation or fine is warranted. After that, an employer has 15 days to respond or dispute the citation.

What are OSHA Inspectors Looking For?

OSHA Inspectors are looking for any code violations that illustrate a lack of compliance, whether it is a willing or unknowing violation. These violations could range from serious (in cases where a safety hazard has been ignored or not identified) to willful (any instance that shows disregards for employee safety and lack of action to correct those issues). If an employer has been subject to an OSHA inspection before, there could be repeat violations for failure to correct prior issues or if the employer is using outdated OSHA requirements as the basis of the compliance plan.

Inspectors will specifically be looking for:

• Thorough and up-to-date documentation including, Safety Data Sheets outlining the safe handling and storage of chemicals, OSHA 300 logs that record serious accidents or illnesses in the workplace, vaccination and COVID-19 testing records, and clear plans regarding blood-borne pathogens and respiratory protection.

• A staff that is trained to identify workplace hazards and follow policy protocols to ensure OSHA compliance. They will also be looking for documentation to prove staff training with the type of training provided and dates of completion.

• Code violations including any item that exposes an employee to injury or other health-related risk, procedural issues or improper labeling, handling, and disposal of dangerous materials, and equipment or procedures that pose a threat to employee safety.

How Can You Be Prepared?

To be prepared for an OSHA Inspection, COVID-19 related or otherwise, you should do the following:

1. Stay up to date with the latest OSHA regulations. Your policies should be created with your employee’s safety as the primary concern. OSHA regulations can change from time to time, so staying informed is critical to ensure compliance and avoid fines and penalties.

2. Implement frequent training sessions to ensure management, compliance officers and employees are on the same page regarding safety policies and protocols. Create records of the type of training, who received the training, and the date of completion.

3. Maintain accurate and thorough documentation of all policies, procedures, and protocols. All employees should have access to this documentation and be informed to any changes or amendments. This includes vaccination records and proof of testing per OSHA regulations. Having an organized set of manuals outlining these items is your first line of defense to ensure a successful outcome of an OSHA inspection.

4. Prepare compliance officers and employees for any interaction with an OSHA inspector. Let them know that they may be interviewed by the inspector and establish a protocol for answering questions about their role in ensuring the highest levels of safety in the facility. An employee should feel confident that they can answer any question posed by an OSHA Inspector.

5. Walk your facility regularly and look for any issues that might raise a red flag with an OSHA Inspector. Talk with your employees to make sure they are aware of safety policies and understand the procedures as set forth in your compliance manuals.

An OSHA inspection (announced or unannounced) can be a nerve-wracking experience and has the potential to disrupt workflow. Fines and penalties are an additional burden on the employer if violations are found. However, you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. There is help.

At MedSharps, we work with clients on a regular basis to help them with their OSHA compliance issues. When dealing with work-place safety, sometimes it takes an outside observer to identify issues you may have missed. Our team of experts knows what OSHA might be looking for in an inspection and we can help you overcome any challenges you might be having (even ones you might not be aware of).

MedSharps can help with a comprehensive plan to dispose of medical waste properly and ensure your policies, training and documentation will be up-to-date and compliant in case of an OSHA inspection.

Visit MedSharps.com today to request a free quote.

How To Properly Dispose of Expired & Unused Prescriptions – At Home & In the Clinic

Have you ever wondered what happens to your pharmaceutical drugs once they’re discarded? It is common for both individuals and healthcare providers to find themselves with unused/expired prescription drugs and questioning the proper way to dispose of them. While medical facilities are highly regulated and have strict disposal protocols to follow, at-home individuals might unknowingly consider flushing their unused medications down the toilet or throwing them into the trash. Both of these methods of disposal are improper and dangerous.

When medications are improperly disposed of, they often inadvertently end up contaminating local water supplies, including lakes, rivers, and drinking water. This contamination, known as pharmaceutical pollution, negatively impacts marine life. Fish and other aquatic wildlife remain at a high risk for biological imbalances and changes from pharmaceutical pollution – including stunting the ability to reproduce which could potentially wipeout of entire species.

So how can you help? Understanding how to properly dispose of unused prescription drugs – at home or at your place of business – is the first step. Fortunately, there are multiple options for how you can safely dispose of your prescription drugs, including:

Drug Take-Back Programs
Each year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors several National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days that provide a complimentary, responsible and safe way to dispose of unused and expired medications. Since its inaugural event in 2016, over 4 million tons of medications have been collected through the efforts of the DEA that in turn keep communities and households free of pharmaceuticals that can potentially cause harm. This event has remained a very effective program for the DEA and one of the most successful methods of drug disposal.

The success of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days has inspired additional drug take-back programs at the state, local, and even business level. For additional information about the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days and to find local take-back programs in your area, visit the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

MedSharps’ Rx Destroyer™
All non-hazardous medications (DEA-controlled & Non-controlled) including, pills, capsules, tablets, liquids, lozenges, transdermal patches, fentanyl lollipops, & suppositories can be destroyed through the MedSharps’ Rx Destroyer™.

What is the MedSharps’ Rx Destroyer™? This pharmaceutical disposal system is a ready-to-use product that requires no additives or special training to use. This system is as easy as loading, shaking, and discarding your medication.

The system contains patented solution that begins dissolving medications directly on contact. Active medication ingredients are adsorbed or neutralized by activated charcoal. Absorption time varies depending on additive and existing contents. Each container contains a carefully formulated balance of ingredients that will destroy to the capacity of the medication. MedSharps Rx Destroyer™ patented formula resists mold growth, resists bacteria development, and automatically controls internal pressure.

Donation
Did you know? Pharmaceuticals that meet certain requirements, and would normally be discarded, can actually be collected and redistributed to participating prescribers. While each state has their own regulations, which can be reviewed by visiting the State Prescriptions Repository Programs website provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), some medications can typically be donated if they meet the following requirements:
• They must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
• They are not expired
• They do not require refrigeration
• They are not a controlled substance
• They have not been opened or tampered with
Though the process varies by location, the proper regulations for donation remain the same including following the steps to remove personal information from the medication, having the proper documentation in place, and secure transfer to an appropriate drop-off site. Through donation, this redistribution allows for a safe and responsible increase in medication access, specifically to underserved communities.

While it is important for all consumers and businesses to be aware of proper pharmaceutical disposal, it is crucial for the healthcare industry. Facilities, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, veterinarian clinics, and many other types of companies must follow strict compliance regulations for proper pharmaceutical disposal. This is the mission of MedSharps. At MedSharps, we take pride in providing convenient and compliant medical waste disposal and treatment so that you don’t have to worry about it. Interested in learning more? Contact MedSharps today for options on the collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of all medical and biohazardous waste.

Medical Waste Disposal: Understanding the Stages

The multi-step process of medical waste disposal, transport and treatment is a complex process. Few companies nationwide can say they handle medical waste from start to finish…however at MedSharps, we can say this with pride. While the collection of medical waste comes from a variety of facilities, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, veterinarian clinics, and many other types of companies, there are strict compliance regulations that apply to all medical waste generators that must be adhered to by both the facility and the transport and treating provider.

 

Keep reading below as we break down each stage of the medical waste disposal process and explain the steps taken to remain compliant with the regulations surrounding the waste collection, transportation, treatment and disposal.

Stage 1: Waste Generation by Customer

The medical waste cycle begins through waste generation. Businesses, organizations and individuals can generate multiple types of medical waste in a variety of ways. Let’s start by understanding the different types of medical waste:

  • Regulated Medical Waste (RMW): Also referred to as infectious medical waste or biohazardous waste, this type of waste can easily lead to infections through transfer or saturation of blood.
  • Medical Sharps: Discarded needles used to give shots, administer medications, and/or draw blood.
  • Pharmaceutical Waste: Expired or unused hazardous and non-hazardous medications including but not limited to controlled substances regulated by the DEA.
  • Hazardous Chemicals: Any chemical, including cleaning fluids, that requires a MSDS sheet for disposal.
  • Chemotherapeutic Waste: Materials that have come in contact or contain residual amount of a chemotherapy agent.

A variety of federal and state agencies govern and direct different phases of the medical waste disposal cycle. For instance, OSHA (Occupational Safety Health and Administration) oversees waste that contains bloodborne pathogens, while the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is the governing body of pharmaceutical disposal.

 

Stage 2: Onsite & Accurate Segmentation of Waste Trained Professionals

To protect the safety of all individuals involved in the medical waste disposal process, it’s important that anyone handling the waste is properly trained and understands the importance of correctly segmenting the waste. This is done by sorting the waste at the point of generation into specialized containers dedicated to each type of medical waste. For example, RMW waste may be segmented into secure red bags and placed inside larger containers, while other types of medical waste are sorted directly into hard shell containers, such as needles and sharps.

 

Stage 3: Secure Pickup and Transfer by Waste Containers

When a container is filled and ready for pickup, our licensed, trained and certified professionals will safely retrieve and transfer the waste to the MedSharps waste management facility. To ensure a safe transfer, it is imperative to secure and fasten each container to prevent any spillage or overflow. There should be no visible sign of the medical waste once the containers have been sealed shut.

For individual’s utilizing MedSharp’s Mail-Back Program, be sure to follow the provided packaging directions and adhere to postal requirements specified by  the United States Postal Service (USPS).

 

Stage 4: Treatment of the Waste in MedSharps State-of-the Art Autoclaves 

Following transportation to our waste management facility, all medical waste materials will be handled by licensed, trained and certified MedSharps professionals. Treatment of the waste is required and conducted in one of MedSharp’s state-of-the-art autoclaves utilizing biohazard bins. The autoclave uses heat to kill microorganisms, spores, pathogens and other bacteria found in medical waste. It is then prepared to be transferred to it’s final destination in the last step of the medical waste process.

 

Stage 5: Transportation of Treated Waste to Landfills or WTE (Waste-to-Energy Facility)

The final stop in our medical waste disposal process is transportation of the treated waste to a pre-defined landfill or WTE (waste-to-energy facility). Waste that arrives at the WTE gets transmuted into serviceable electricity. The procedure for WTE engages calculated designed broilers that burn up the non-threatening waste in a closed-off coil system. This produces steam that powers turbines and in turn generates electricity. From there, the electricity gets transported to regional utility businesses to power homes and companies.

As outlined above, proper medical waste disposal is comprised of multiple stages that require extreme attention to detail to ensure the safety of all involved.  Each stage is just as important (and necessary) as the next, and required by regulations and compliance laws.

 

Interested in learning more? Contact a MedSharps professional for a free quote and customizable solution to your medical waste disposal needs.

 

How Proper Biohazard Medical Waste Disposal Protects the Texas Coast from Shocking Dangers

Earlier this month, hundreds of syringes and needles washed up on the Jersey Shore, forcing beachgoers from the water. Investigations determined that it was the result of people flushing medical supplies, such as those for diabetes.
Biohazard medical waste disposal is vital to protecting the environment and the people who inhabit it. These materials can otherwise end up in lakes and parks, causing harm to animals and plants. They also can contaminate groundwater and the air, causing health problems or even death.
The information below will tell you everything you need to know about biohazard removal, disposal, and treatment. It also provides some tips on things you can do to keep these tragedies from happening in your community.

Biohazard Basics
A biohazard is a material that contains blood, body fluids, or human or animal cell lines. They can contaminate the environment and threaten public health.
Medical waste is a specific type of biohazard. It refers to discarded medical supplies from laboratories or clinical settings.
Biohazard waste can pollute oceans, lakes, and streams. It can seep from landfills into groundwater, which can affect drinking water sources. Burning medical waste in incinerators produces toxic fumes that can pollute the air.

Biohazard Medical Waste Disposal
The complete biohazard management regimen involves several steps. The first is cleaning up the materials. Medical waste disposal companies will know what precautions to take and the equipment needed for safe cleanup.
They also will be able to safely transport medical waste. Next, they will separate the toxic materials from harmless ones. Medical waste disposal companies can then determine storage and disposal methods.

What Can I Do?
There are some very basic things you can do to make your home or business safe from biohazards. One is properly storing them before disposal.
First, get the proper holder, such as a sharps container for needles and syringes. Be sure to keep them away from small children. When the container is three-quarters full, dispose of it according to community guidelines.
Most local health or waste management departments will have collection sites or drop boxes. These include doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, or even police or fire stations. Some areas have the option of mailing containers to collection agencies.
These easy biohazard medical waste disposal steps can keep harmful materials out of landfills, water sources, and the air. You can feel good knowing that you have done your part to help protect the environment and public health.

Find Proper Medical Waste Disposal Near You
Now that you have an idea of what biohazardous waste is, you take precautions to handle it and know when to call a professional. If you face a major biohazard accident, be sure to contact a prominent company that has a history of medical waste cleanup.
Since 2008, MedSharps has provided biohazard medical waste disposal and treatment services to communities throughout the country. We pride ourselves on attention to detail and safety. Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule service.