The disease-causing potential of healthcare risk waste (HCRW) is considered greatest at the point of generation and naturally tapers off after that point. Therefore, risk to the general public of disease caused by exposure to HCRW is likely to be much lower than risk to the healthcare workers.
Improper management of discarded needles and other sharps can pose a health risk to the public and waste workers. Used needles can transmit serious diseases, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis.
Implementing special handling and specific safety procedures for waste handlers to follow, for the containment and segregation of HCRW at the point of generation, helps protect healthcare workers and the public from exposure to infectious materials. Proper management at generating sites expedites the transfer and treatment of HCRW. The quality of handling is affected by the design of HCRW containers.
Segregation is the separation of healthcare risk waste into designated categories. It is also the initial and crucial point in the waste handling process that determines the amount of waste and type of treatment process to which it will be subjected in the ensuing waste management process.
The structures that are used for the containment of HCRW can reduce the probability of transmission of infection. In addition, proper containment of HCRW protects workers from physical injury and greatly expedites the waste handling process.
Guidelines on correct containment and HCRW management:
For more detailed information on the correct management of HCRW one can obtain copies of the following applicable SANS codes:
The selection of containers, their availability and careful use is critically important to ensure both safety and minimal impact on the environment.