Essential Steps in Waste Management

There is a lot of discussion about the technologies for waste treatment, but that is only one part of the waste treatment system.  Planning, monitoring, budgeting and training are also important. 

Healthcare facilities should have a waste management policy and a waste management plan.  The policy sets out the overarching priorities, and the plan goes in to more detail about its implementation, which is particularly important during the creation or upgrading of a waste management system.  Standard operating procedures, training and other guides can set out the roles and responsibilities for employees undertaking different waste management tasks.

The Waste Management Committee takes responsibility for the creation and execution of the policies and plans and for making sure that the facility complies with all legal obligations.  Where possible it should also go beyond the legal minimum and aim to meet the best achievable standards.  The committee can also devise appropriate methods of recognizing and rewarding excellent behavior and curbing inappropriate or hazardous actions.

The committee should include representatives from senior management, procurement, finance, medical divisions, laboratories, housekeeping and maintenance as well as the waste workers themselves.  One person should be designated as the Waste Manager and liaise with all those involved in waste generation and management inside and outside the facility.

Waste management should be monitored regularly.  While setting up a new system, the baseline assessment is very important in providing reference data on which to base the plan.  Some monitoring data may be required by the regulatory authorities while other data can show up the successes and failures in the systems so that practices can be improved.   Financial reporting will show the benefits of waste reduction and segregating recyclable materials for sale.

The Waste Management Committee should also set targets for waste management; for example, to recycle a certain amount of waste, or reduce the number of accidents and incidents associated with waste management or the amount of hazardous materials purchased.

The waste policy and targets should be reviewed each year with the aim of  achieving continuous improvement.


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