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Medical Waste

During the summer of 1988, syringes and other used medical materials washed up on beaches along the Atlantic seaboard. In response to public concern about this problem, Congress enacted the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988. Although this federal regulation has expired and is no longer in effect, each state has enacted similar regulations to govern activities within their jurisdiction.

Concurrently, awareness of safety issues within the veterinary practice is at an all time high and most practice administrators are trying very hard to balance all the rules with the need to simply get the job done. So itís no wonder that the whole issue of medical waste is sometimes confusing to the administrator.

On one hand, OSHA recognizes that the handling of sharps (needles, scalpel blades, etc.) is a safety hazard in veterinary hospitals. On the other hand, individual states are responsible for the regulations covering disposal of medical wastes. This means that many agencies place requirements on the use of sharps and dangerous instruments but OSHAís only concern is for the employees handling dangerous instruments. State and local waste management boards deal exclusively with the storage, transportation and disposal of wastes.

Read more about medical waste issues.

Sharps

In late 2000, the United States Congress passed, an the president signed the Needlestick Safety & Prevention Act (NSPA) This new law has almost no impact on the general veterinary profession, although it does have implications for the research community.

Click here to read the definitions of Blood and Other Infectious Materials.

Since there is no "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood" (remember human blood) then this standard DOES NOT APPLY TO MOST ANIMAL HOSPITAL ACTIVITIES.

Of course, when a state has a specific needle safety law with requirements above and beyond what the federal OSHA standard requires, then the additional state requirements must be followed. Click here to find out more about state regulations.  Even though the disease-related risks from sharps are normally not present in the veterinary practice. the physical trauma and possible bacterial infections can and do occur. Itís also worth noting that certain activities increase the risk of needlestick injury. Several studies have shown that needlestick injuries are often associated with these activities:

Even though the NSPA does not directly apply to the veterinary profession, we can use some of the guidelines of the BPS to improve the safety of our staff when handling sharps and medical waste materials.

Can we re-use syringes or needles?

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The information on these pages is excerpted from
The Veterinary Safety & Health Digest,
Copyright 2001 Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT  All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced for distribution without prior permission from the publisher.

 

 

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This page was last updated on 01/24/14.

The original material and photographs on this site are protected by copyright.
Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT, 1998-2014 - All Rights Reserved