In the eyes of the US EPA, a hospital is no different than any other industrial facility and subject to its hazardous waste regulations. However, hospitals are just as guilty as other hazardous waste generators when it comes to the proper disposal and treatment of hazardous waste. In fact, in a recent court decision in Louisiana, a man pled guilty to the illegal disposal of hazardous waste materials at a local hospital.
Compliance with State and Federal regulations is critical, but you must first be aware of the potential violations. Lack of understanding or knowledge of potential violations is not an adequate defense. We have compiled a list of the top 10 most common hazardous waste violations that are found in hospitals to help you avoid them in the future.
1. Lack of or Improper Labeling of Hazardous Waste – This is often overlooked and is so easy to remedy. Label your storage containers appropriately.
2. Improper or Failure to Perform Hazardous Waste Determinations – You need to know what hazardous waste regulations apply as a hazardous waste generator. This is one of the most critical first steps you can take.
3. Throwing Hazardous Waste down the Drain – Seems like a no-brainer. But as we all know, human beings are human. Short cuts can be tempting, especially if you are trying to cut costs. (See the court decision above)
4. Inadequate or No Hazardous Waste Manifests – Unless you are a conditionally exempt small hazardous waste generator, a uniform hazardous waste manifest must be used for all shipments.
5. Improper Management of Expired Hazardous Waste - Even expired waste is subject to the hazardous waste determination process. See #2
6. Lack of a Contingency Plan – If you are a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, then you must have a contingency plan in place.
7. Inadequate or No Training of Employees in Hazardous Waste Management – Without adequate training, employees won’t know the regulations and proper ways to dispose of hazardous waste. Not only is inadequate training a violation in and of itself, but failure to properly train employees is the first step a hospital should take to reduce exposure and liability.
8. Improper Consolidation of Hazardous Wastes from Nearby Facilities – You must use caution when consolidating wastes from other facilities and your own.
9. Improper Management of Mercury – All of these waste containing items could be handled as universal waste at a greatly reduced regulatory burden. They include, but are not limited to:
Mercury Vapor Lam
10. Infrequent or No Weekly Inspections of Hazardous Waste Storage Areas – Hazardous waste storage areas should be inspected every 7 days. It does not matter if you are a large or small quantity generator, weekly inspections means weekly.
As State and Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations get more and more restrictive in nature, the proper handling and disposing of hazardous waste materials is even more critical to a business operation’s success. Proper identification and labeling of hazardous waste, appropriate training of employees, and putting into place the correct contingency plans and procedures, will protect yourself and hospital from potential liability.